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Europe’s space telescope launches to target universe’s dark mysteries

AFP – Europe’s Euclid space telescope blasted off Saturday, kicking off a first-ever mission to shed light on two of the universe’s greatest mysteries: dark energy and dark matter.

“I can tell you, I’m so thrilled, I’m so excited to see this mission up in space,” European Space Agency (ESA) Director General Josef Aschbacher said after the launch.

The telescope successfully took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 11.12am local time on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Shortly after, once separated from the rocket, it emitted its first signal, as scheduled.

The ESA was forced to turn to billionaire Elon Musk’s firm to launch the mission after Russia pulled its Soyuz rockets in response to sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine.

“The launch was perfect,” said Carole Mundell, ESA’s Science Director. “Now begins that journey.”

After a month-long trip through space, Euclid will join the James Webb telescope at a stable hovering spot around 1.5 million kilometres from Earth called the second Lagrange Point.

From there, Euclid will chart the largest-ever map of the universe, encompassing up to two billion galaxies across more than a third of the sky.

By capturing light that has taken 10 billion years to reach Earth’s vicinity, the map will also offer a new view of the 13.8-billion-year-old universe’s history.

“We will unravel the mysteries of the Dark Universe,” Mundell said.

The European Space Agency’s Euclid space telescope launches on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. PHOTO: AFP