Gaia Mission Releases Largest Map Ever of 1.7 Billion Stars

The European Space Agency presented the latest, highly detailed sky map of the Milky Way Galaxy that displays the brightness and positions of nearly 1.7 billion stars. It is by far the most comprehensive catalogue of stars up to now, and it contains exact information regarding many of the stars’ distances, movements, and colors as well.

The Gaia satellite and its one-billion-pixel camera have been mapping the Milky Way since 2013 and it has been scanning our galaxy with its two telescopes ever since, for the purpose of understanding how our Milky Way galaxy shaped and developed. ESA published an initial map of Gaia’s data back in 2016 based upon 14 months of scanning. That map showed the exact positions of more than 1.1 billion stars. The new map is packed with a lot more information and facts, as a result of information accumulated over 22 additional months.

Along with the location, brightness, distances and motions of over a billion stars, Gaia’s second set of data also includes color measurements of the majority of the stars, surface temperatures of about 100 million, the effect of interstellar dust on 87 million, together with the positions of more than 14,000 known asteroids.

Gaia researchers hope this data will assist astronomers expand their understanding of the physics of stars. The new Gaia map will help astronomers put together the history of the Milky Way’s formation. Eventually, the catalogue may help us make numerous new discoveries. The measurements might even allow us to predict where exactly dark matter is located in the galaxy.