Gaia Releases An Incredible 3D Map Of The Milky Way With 1.7 Billion Stars

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Gaia mission of European Space Agency has unveiled an incredible 3D map of the milky way with 1.7 billion stars. The mission’s second data set has finally been published which significantly improve the present impressive original data that was released 2016.

In the first data release the goal was to measure the position and the small velocity fraction of 1 billion stars. But in the new release the Gaia mission has gone beyond the targets.

This new release data set contains nearly about 1.7 billion light sources and their brightness. The mission has measured the position, distance and motion of 1.3 billion stars. Even measured their colors which may be very useful for working out their properties. The mission has the capacity of measuring the radial velocity of almost 7 million stars which helps in telling us whether the star is moving towards or away from us. This will further help in constructing the maps of stellar motion within the Milky Way. All this combined information is the key to create an animated 3D map of our galaxy.

The Gaia spacecraft which was launched in 2013, is orbiting our sun, about a million miles away from Earth. However, it has surveyed a huge number of stars, Gaia is mapping only about 1 % of what is out there. The Milky Way contains nearly 100 billion stars. The team presented the new images of our galaxy that were based on some prior analyses of the data and the team said “It’s not fake, it’s real measurements, we know exactly where the stars are.”

This Milky Way 3D-map is the most accurate and highly precise one ever made to date. With these accurate measurements, it is easy to separate the parallax of stars that is an apparent shift in the sky caused by Earth’s yearly orbit around the Sun from their true movements through the galaxy.

David Hogg, an astrophysicist at New York University and the Flatiron Institute said, “This is a very big deal. I’ve been working on trying to understand the Milky Way and the formation of the Milky Way for a large fraction of my scientific career, and the amount of information this is revealing in some sense is thousands or even hundreds of thousands of times larger than any amount of information we’ve had previously,” and further added “We’re really talking about an immense change to our knowledge about the Milky Way.”