The Gaia spacecraft will soon launch on a mission to chart the heavens in unprecedented detail.
by Devin Powell
In November, the European Space Agency (ESA) launches Gaia: an astrometric mission that required many compromises and 13 years to complete, and will cost about €1 billion (US$1.4 billion). Gaia will make observations for the next 5 years; the results will extend the reach of high-precision maps from the roughly 2.5 million stars near Earth to at least 1 billion stretching to the edge of the Milky Way or beyond. For an estimated 10 million of those objects, Gaia's map will be fully three-dimensional: the spacecraft will measure not just the stars' locations on the sky, but also their distances from Earth, accurate to less than 1%. For now, the distances to only a few hundred stars are known at this level of precision.
Full story at Nature
Gaia Launches Soon
1 reply to this topic
Posted 06 October 2013 - 03:29 PM
This is a mission I've been eagerly awaiting for more than a decade. It will better the Hipparcos data by something like two orders of magnitude in accuracy. Already Hipparcos has permitted to resolve the ~150 l-y distant Hyades in depth. With GAIA we could do the same for clusters perhaps 1,500 l-y distant. I really hope there are no glitches, for this mission's results will transform our picture of our corner of the Galaxy and revolutinize Galactic dynamics. I can imagine the flood of papers which will result!