Will Percival awarded Canadian Space Agency grant

Monday, April 18, 2022

Will Percival
Professor Will Percival, Director of the Waterloo Centre for Astrophysics, has been awarded a grant by the Canadian Space Agency to support his work helping to lead the Euclid satellite mission. This mission, led by the European Space Agency and scheduled for launch early in 2023, will provide a map of the Universe that is far larger than scientists currently have and is more accurate thanks to Euclid's space-based observations. The map will be constructed from the 3D positions of millions of galaxies, each a grouping of billions of stars similar to our own Milky-Way galaxy. The pattern of these galaxies in space reveals the properties of the Universe and will help to answer many fundamental problems in physics.

The Euclid satellite is currently being assembled by the Euclid industrial prime contractor, Thales Alenia Space in Turin in order to fulfil its mission to map the Universe.

The problem that Euclid will try to solve is one of the biggest in physics: why the current expansion of the Universe is accelerating. The solution has a name, “Dark Energy”, but little is understood about it. With Dark Energy, the evolution of the Universe is driven by gravity acting on the material of the Universe pulling it together and causing deceleration of the expansion rate. To match current observations and have an accelerating Universe we need either a weakening of gravity on large scales and low densities, or a new material dominating the energy budget in the Universe. Euclid will help us understand which of these is correct, providing more information about the currently unknown physical processes at work.

The CSA grant will enable a group of early-career researchers to work at the heart of the consortium of scientists working on Euclid. Furthermore, it will train these scientists with the key skills required for a number of future career directions.

Percival’s grant is one of four grants awarded by the Canadian Space Agency this year to researchers across Canada for the advance of scientific knowledge, and is the only project aiming to study the Universe beyond our Solar System.