ESA Reveals Most Detailed Map Of The Milky Way With 1.7 Billion Stars

The European Space Agency has just produced a stunning map of our home galaxy the Milky Way, featuring around 1.7 billion stars.

The ESA has produced the complete star catalog to date, with high precision measurements of almost 1.7 Billion stars featuring incredible, never-before-seen details of the Milky Way.

The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), one of the nearest galaxies to our Milky Way, as viewed by ESA’s Gaia satellite using information from the mission’s second data release. Image Credit: ESA

According to reports, around 450 scientists and software engineers participated in the task of creating the complete star map of our galaxy. And it includes 1.3 billion light sources.

The data was collected by the space agency’s Gaia probe, which launched into space in 2013.


The above GIF shows the orbits of four globular clusters (NGC 104, NGC 288, NGC 362 and NGC 1851), shown in blue, and three dwarf galaxies (Carina, Bootes I and Draco), shown in red, around the Milky Way, as imaged by the Gaia spacecraft. Image Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC.

The analysis has revealed details about the Milky Way’s stellar composition, including how stars move, which is important for investigation how our galaxy formed and evolved.

The news is exciting since the European Space Agency—based in Paris—has revealed that professional and amateur astronomers alike will have the opportunity to access the new data and hunt for discoveries in our galaxy.

Gaia is unique, and unlike NASA’s Hubble telescope—which takes images of the sky—Gaia has the ability to measure the distance, motion, brightens and color of the stars in our galaxy.

The newly gathered details will allow astronomers and software engineers to create new maps including asteroids in our solar system, as well as 3D charts of nearby stars.

The Gaia spacecraft gathered observations for this all-sky view of the Milky Way and neighboring galaxies between July 2014 and May 2016, releasing the data on April 25, 2018. This image shows all the stars’ colors and brightness (top), the total density of stars (middle) and the distribution of interstellar gas and dust across the galaxy (bottom). Image Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC

An example of the date allows viewers to see the sheer number of celestial objects that have been mapped by the project so far.

The new data gathered by Gaia includes the position, distance and motion of more than one billion stars, as well as high-precision measurements of asteroids in our own star system, and stars well beyond the Milky Way galaxy.

“The observations collected by Gaia are redefining the foundations of astronomy,’ said Günther Hasinger, ESA director of science, in a written statement. Gaia is an ambitious mission that relies on a huge human collaboration to make sense of a large volume of highly complex data. It demonstrates the need for long-term projects to guarantee progress in space science and technology and to implement even more daring scientific missions of the coming decades.”

The data gathered by data comprises a period between July of 2014 and May 23 of 2016. The first release covered one year of observations and was released in 2016 and contained distances and motions of around 2 million stars.

The new release pins down with great accuracy around 1.7 billion stars with unprecedented precision.

To understand how precise the measurements are, for some of the brightest stars in the new survey, the level of precision equals to telescopes on Earth spotting a coin on the surface of the moon.

“The second Gaia data release represents a huge leap forward concerning ESA’s Hipparcos satellite, Gaia’s predecessor and the first space mission for astrometry, which surveyed some 118,000 stars almost thirty years ago,” says Anthony Brown of Leiden University in the Netherlands.

“The sheer number of stars alone, with their positions and motions, would make Gaia’s new catalog already quite astonishing. But there is more. This unique scientific catalog includes many other data types, with information about the properties of the stars and other celestial objects, making this release truly exceptional,” added Brown.

Featured Image Credit: Gaia’s sky in color

Source: ESA


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