The European Space Agency’s map of one billion stars is just breathtaking. This week, ESA released a map that showed over a billion stars spread out in the Milky Way. One billion stars represent about 1% of the Milky Way’s stellar content.
The stunning map was created with data via the spacecraft Gaia from the past two years. Gaia that has been traveling through space since 2013 was able to create the most detailed 3D map ever of the stars in our galaxy. The map features the exact positions of the brightness of 1142 million stars in our Milky Way galaxy.
Additionally, it includes the distances and the motions across the sky for more than two million stars. The map also shows open and globular clusters. It even has other galaxies like the Large Magellanic Cloud, Small Magellanic Cloud, and Andromeda.
This new catalog is twice as precise and contains almost 20 times as many stars as the previous definitive reference for astrometry, the Hipparcos Catalogue. Astrophysicists at the European Space Agency believe their impressive star chart will help scientists better understand the structure of our galaxy and beyond.
Officials at ESA say they believe that the comprehensive map will also provide information about how our galaxy was formed and evolved over time. Antonella Vallenari from the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF) and the Astronomical Observatory of Padua, Italy said:
“With Hipparcos, we could only analyse the 3D structure and dynamics of stars in the Hyades, the nearest open cluster to the Sun, and measure distances for about 80 clusters up to 1600 light-years from us.”
“But with Gaia’s first data, it is now possible to measure the distances and motions of stars in about 400 clusters up to 4800 light-years away. For the closest 14 open clusters, the new data reveal many stars surprisingly far from the center of the parent cluster, likely escaping to populate other regions of the Galaxy.”
Timo Prusti, Gaia project scientist at ESA, shared in a statement:
“The beautiful map we are publishing today shows the density of stars measured by Gaia across the entire sky, and confirms that it collected superb data during its first year of operations.”
Alvaro Giménez, Director of Science at the European Space Agency, added:
“Gaia is at the forefront of astrometry, charting the sky at precisions that have never been achieved before.”
The European Space Agency says the future looks very promising for space experts. Gaia’s measurements will enable scientists to determine very accurate distances to a broad cross-section of variable stars. With those “they will calibrate and improve the relation between the period and brightness of these stars, and apply it to measure distances beyond our Galaxy.”
Gisella Clementini, INAF and Astronomical Observatory of Bologna, Italy, said:
“This is only the beginning: we measured the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud to test the quality of the data, and we got a sneak preview of the dramatic improvements that Gaia will soon bring to our understanding of cosmic distances.”
Some are wondering if all the information will be shared with the scientific community as a whole.