Mapping the dark universe

Monday, June 5, 2023

Dark matter and dark energy drive the growth of our Universe, but the true nature of this strange "dark Universe" is still a mystery. The Euclid space mission, launching in July, will provide new insights into the expansion and formation of the universe. Waterloo's Dr. Will Percival is a primary science coordinator for the Euclid mission and gave a public talk at the Kitchener Public Library last week.

Dark matter and dark energy are invisible but make up 95% of the universe, driving its structure and evolution. The Euclid space mission will create large-scale maps of the Universe by observing billions of galaxies across space and time in more than a third of the sky. It will explore how the Universe has expanded, revealing more about the role of gravity and the nature of dark energy and dark matter.

Percival, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and director of the Waterloo Centre for Astrophysics, uses advanced statistical techniques to analyse the 3D pattern of galaxies to develop a standard ruler to measure the expansion of the universe. Percival's team will use data from the Euclid telescope to build their maps and understand why the expansion is accelerating at present day. 

“We see the effects of dark matter and dark energy through astronomy,” says Percival, who holds the Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Distinguished Chair in Astrophysics. “And we have models that help explain their properties. "But scientifically, we don’t know very much about them at all.”

Percival is passionate about sharing his love of astronmy with the community. His talk was part of a series between the Waterloo Centre for Astrophysics and the Kitchener Public Library that takes place on the last Wednesday of each month.

“Outreach is so important and it’s something I love doing,” he says. "It is a privilege to give back to the community and the public, who do so much to support our work.”

To learn more, please visit Reaching for the unknown dark universe on Waterloo News.