Thursday, December 19, 2013

ESA Gaia Milky Way Mapping satellite Launch

A European probe roared into space Thursday (Dec. 19), kicking off an ambitious mission to map a billion Milky Way stars in high resolution.

The European Space Agency's Gaia spacecraft lifted off its pad at Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 4:12 a.m. EST (0912 GMT) Thursday, carried aloft by a Russian Soyuz-Fregat rocket.

Gaia is on its way to a gravitationally stable point about 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth, which it should reach in about three weeks.

Over the next five years, Gaia aims not only to pinpoint the locations of 1 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy, but also to determine where these stars are moving, what they are made of and how luminous they are.

These are all steps to help scientists better understand the history of the universe, ESA officials have said.

As a side benefit, Gaia's powerful twin telescopes will likely find thousands of new exoplanets, asteroids and other small, faint and hard-to-see objects.

‪"Gaia will conduct the biggest cosmic census yet, charting the positions, motions and characteristics of a billion stars to create the most precise 3D map of our Milky Way," ESA officials said in a statement.

No comments:

Post a Comment