ESA’s Gaia mission is surveying stars in our Galaxy and local galactic neighbourhood in order to build the most precise 3D map of the Milky Way and answer questions about its structure, origin and evolution.
Launched in 2013, Gaia has already generated its first catalogue of more than a billion stars – the largest all-sky survey of celestial objects to date.
To achieve its scientific aims, the spacecraft operates in an ultra-high-precision pointing mode, and to enable the flight control team to monitor spacecraft performance, Gaia regularly reports to the ground information about its current attitude and the stars that have been observed.
These engineering data have been accumulated over 18 months and combined to create a ‘map’ of the observed star densities, from which a beautiful and ghostly ‘virtual image’ of our magnificent Milky Way galaxy can be discerned, showing the attendant globular clusters and Magellanic clouds.
The intensity scale of this map represents star density derived from the engineering data representing star density. Where there are more stars, as in the Galactic centre, the map is brighter; where there are fewer, the map is darker. The map includes brightness data corresponding to several million stars.
More information on Gaia operations
Editor’s note: On 21 November, at 16:00 CET, the Gaia mission team will host a live ‘Ask Me Anything’ chat. Details will be posted via ESA social media channels later.
Media briefing replay: Gaia scientists present stellar catalogues obtained during the first year of ESA’s star surveyor
ESA’s Gaia mission has published its first catalogue of a billion stars
The first catalogue of more than a billion stars from ESA’s Gaia satellite was published today – the largest all-sky survey of celestial objects to date.
Explore the sky with this new visualisation using data from ESA’s Hipparcos mission
Gaia’s first star catalogue will be unveiled on Wednesday, 14 September. Watch livestream from 09:30 GMT / 11:30 CEST
Livestreaming of the media briefing on the first data release from ESA’s Gaia mission will begin on 14 September at 09:30 GMT (11:30 CEST).
Media representatives are invited to a briefing on the first data release of ESA’s Gaia mission, an astrometry mission to map the stars of our galaxy, the Milky Way.