The European Space Agency, thanks to GAIA, it spacecraft, whose mission is to produce a detailed three-dimensional map of the stars our galaxy, released the largest 3D star atlas ever assembled.
The new atlas, released on Wednesday, includes 1.7 billion stars. This means, 700 million more than its last update in 2016. To achieve this, Gaia uses a super-powerful camera and two telescopes to pinpoint the exact location of every star in the sky (by making around dozens of observations of each star). It then tracks information about each star’s brightness, size, and temperature.
The Gaia database also includes information on asteroids, nearby galaxies, and the surface temperatures of 100 million stars. And astronomers can use it to study how the cosmos moves, make observations about how the galaxy formed, and potentially even find new planets.
But the map is still not complete. There are likely more than 100 billion stars in our galaxy. The ESA is hoping to collect data on 2 billion stars by 2022.
In a statement, the European Space Agency said the Gaia mission has produced the richest star catalogue to date, including high-precision measurements of nearly 1.7 billion stars and revealing previously unseen details of our home Galaxy.
A multitude of discoveries are on the horizon after this much awaited release, which is based on 22 months of charting the sky. The new data includes positions, distance indicators and motions of more than one billion stars, along with high-precision measurements of asteroids within our Solar System and stars beyond our own Milky Way Galaxy.
Preliminary analysis of this phenomenal data reveals fine details about the make-up of the Milky Way’s stellar population and about how stars move, essential information for investigating the formation and evolution of our home Galaxy.
“The observations collected by Gaia are redefining the foundations of astronomy,” says Günther Hasinger, ESA Director of Science.