Gaia presents an unparalleled map of the Milky Way

The Gaia mission, whose space observatory developed a detailed three-dimensional map of the Milky Way, unveils a new version on Monday with information on the location, trajectories and characteristics of nearly 2,000 million objects.

The community of astronomers will be able to immerse themselves from Monday, starting at 10:00 GMT, in the third catalog of the data collected by the instrument. Added to this are fifty scientific articles on a host of celestial objects.

The information goes from more than 150,000 asteroids in the Solar System, "whose orbits have been calculated with incomparable precision"going through data on 1,500 million stars of the Milky Way, to those related to other galaxies and quasars, Fran├žois Mignard, one of the people in charge of this project of the European Space Agency (ESA), told AFP.

The Gaia observatory has been in operation since 2013, located at the Lagrange 2 point (L2), where, due to the gravitational influences of the different bodies, it remains in orbital equilibrium 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.

"Gaia scans the sky, and collects everything she sees" summarizes the astronomer Misha Haywood, at the Paris-PSL Observatory. He detects and observes a very small part (barely 1%) of the stars in the Milky Way, whose diameter is estimated at 100,000 light-years.

But Gaia is not limited to establishing a simple map. Hers two telescopes they are associated with a photographic sensor of 1,000 million pixels, when that of a commercial photo apparatus has only a few million. Three astrometry, photometry and spectrometry instruments will interpret the recovered photons.

"This allows for the first time a global observation of the positions of what moves in the sky" Haywood explains. Before Gaia, "we had a really restricted view of the galaxy".

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With Gaia, astronomers not only have access to the positions and movements of a large number of stars, but also measurements of their physical characteristics and, above all, their age.

So much information "illustrate its past evolution, and therefore the galaxy evolution" explains astronomer Paola di Matteo, a colleague of Misha Haywood at the Paris-PSL Observatory.

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