European satellite data will make 3D galaxy map possible

Mindy Sparks
April 25, 2018

The European Space Agency released the most accurate census yet of stars in the Milky Way and neighboring galaxies Wednesday, providing astronomers with a wealth of new data for further research.

Ultimately, in tracking the exact position in the sky of these stars, their distance from the earth, their variability, and their movement, the Gaia project will allow scientists to map much more precisely the shape and distances of the galaxy (see video). The ESA released its first Gaia catalog of 1 billion stars in 2016 with data on the distances and motions of around 2 million of those stars. The images here are the result of 22 months of charting the sky.

The high-precision measurements about the distance, motion, brightness and color of nearly 1.7 billion stars were collected by the space agency's Gaia probe between July 2014 and May 2016.

"We did not know if it was going to be nice but it's really awesome", said Brown, while he presented the blue and red sky map based on information about the temperature of millions of stars, clouds of dust, and gas.

The data provided by the ESA includes positions, distance indicators and motions of over a billion stars. What's more, the precision with which some of these stars have been mapped is simply mind-blowing. 161 million were bright enough to measure their surface temperature.

Gaia also measured the orbits of 12 dwarf galaxies that revolve around the Milky Way, along with 75 compact clusters of stars. In the UV range shows that in the blue is removed the stars from our Solar system, and the red of the approaching stars.

Further data releases are planned in the coming years.

That's not all. Gaia also observes objects in our Solar System, like the positions of more than 14,000 known asteroids. The scientists were eagerly waiting for its observations so that they can understand our Milky Way and its objects in a better way.

Data from this study will help to identify the characteristics of the dark matter that constitutes about 95% of the mass of the Universe.

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