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The European Space Agency revealed a map of the Milky Way, designed with a sophisticated telescope called Gaia. Although not as famous as its Hubble counterpart, Gaia is starting to rise to popularity.
Today, the European Space Agency has unveiled a 3-dimensional map which includes a billion stars in our galaxy. This map will be 1,000 times more comprehensive than any other maps we have.
The Gaia space probe, which acts as a telescope too, was launched in December 2013. Since then, it circles the sun 1.5 million kilometres (a million miles) beyond the Earth’s orbit. It takes pictures of the Milky Way from many different angles.
The satellite has a camera with a resolution of one billion pixels. That’s the most accurate camera known to man, so far. It is extremely powerful. It could zoom in on a human hair from a distance of 1,000 kilometers. This has enabled astronomers to locate close stars with a great amount of detail.
The two telescopes installed on Gaia are in the course of locating a billion stars, going halfway into the five-year mission. So far, the mission discovered 2 million stars, but it will work its way to a billion in 2017.
Even though a billion stars seems like a lot, that represents just one tiny bit (one percent, to be specific) of the Milky Way’s total number of stars. The area of the Milky Way is 100,000 light years from one end to another.
The billion-star map provides material for professionals and amateurs alike, for years to come. Francois Mignard, an astronomer from France’s National Center for Scientific Research reminds us that humans have always wanted to catalog the skies.
What Gaia has done is an unprecedented feat and ‘opens a new astronomy chapter.’ This is surely going to lead to many science studies.
Gaia mapped a part of the Milky Way by scanning every star around 70 times. It can predict their movement too.
So scientists can now accurately measure the distance from Earth to each star.
The Gaia mission also has information on a star’s temperature, chemical composition and degree of luminosity. It also uncovered new worlds, with their supernovas, planets, and asteroids.
50 European companies contributed to building the sophisticated telescope.
Image Source – YouTube