The Euclid Space Telescope, one instrument of which was obstructed by a thin layer of ice, has regained its vision after a delicate thawing operation, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced on Tuesday, March 26.

The ESA feared that this advancing frost would delay the mission, launched in July 2023, to investigate the cosmic mysteries of dark matter and dark energy.

The thawing procedure carried out by the ground teams, who gently heated the Euclid mirrors, “Gived much better results than expected”the ESA said in a statement. “After the very first mirror was heated to just 34 degrees Celsius, Euclid could see again”the space agency adds.

Avoid heating radiators to save time

The mission teams had noticed as early as November that a telescope instrument, which reproduces images in visible light, was receiving less light than expected, making the stars appear less bright than they should be.

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The cause was a layer of ice the thickness of a DNA strand that had built up on the optics of the Euclid imager, which was about 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. One solution would have been to activate the onboard heating elements to heat the entire spacecraft, as had been done shortly after launch.

But this option was risky because the heat, due to expanding the materials, would have required a recalibration of at least a month and would have delayed the mission, Ralf Kohley, one of the instrument’s operations managers, explained last week out to AFP.

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So the team started with the individual mirrors, hoping to solve the problem without heating up the entire space telescope. Not knowing exactly where the frost had gathered, we had to try different mirrors. Fortunately, the first heated mirror was the right one, the ESA emphasizes.

Euclid has had a number of setbacks since its launch. The influence of cosmic rays first disrupted the ship’s guidance system, requiring a complex update to the computer system. Stray sunlight also disturbed his observations, a problem that was solved by a small rotation of the telescope.

With the Euclid mission, scientists hope to learn more about the nature of dark energy and dark matter, two entities that have never been observed before and are believed to make up 95% of the universe.

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