Observatory creates most detailed ever map of stars in our galaxy

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The space satellite uses twin telescopes to study the position, distance, movement, chemical composition and brightness of stars in our galaxy.

It operates around 1.5 million kilometres behind the Earth, in the direction away from the Sun.

The data is helping scientists determine the Milky Way’s origin and evolution.

Gaia’s latest data, released on Thursday (December 3), contains detailed information on more than 1.8 billion sources detected by the spacecraft, an increase of more than 100 million on the previous data release in April 2018.

It includes a detailed census of more than 300,000 stars in our cosmic neighbourhood.

That’s some increase on the first survey of our solar neighbourhood carried out in 1957, which, according to ESA, initially possessed just 915 objects.

The motions of 40,000 stars have been predicted 1.6 million years into the future.

Gaia is named after an ancient Greek deity.

Scientists have compared its accuracy to measuring the thickness of a human hair from over 2,000 kilometres away.

The European Space Agency says the spacecraft’s full third data release is expected in 2022.

The spacecraft will continue gathering data until at least 2022, but the mission could be extended until 2025.

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February 07 2021 06:30 pm

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