There’s a new map of the Milky Way

By Enrique Huerta

This atlas details position and brilliance of more than a billion stars

The European Space Agency (ESA) traced a new map of the Milky Way with data received by the spacecraft Gaia, launched on December 2013.

andromeda galaxy 755442

This satellite, located 1.6 kilometers away from Earth, has catalogued nearly 1.1 billion stars in our galaxy, of which 400 million had never before been observed.

Moreover, in 14 months of observation and measurements, this spacecraft has managed to detail the position and brilliance of these heavenly bodies.

“It’s the largest ever map made [of the Milky Way] from a single survey, and it’s also the most accurate map ever made,” says Anthony Brown of Leiden University, a member of the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium.

galaxy 10994

With the new data release, Gaia has tracked the positions and motions of the brightest two million stars in the Milky Way, smashing the 100,000-star mark set by Hipparcos, which was launched by the ESA on August 1989 and that ended its mission on March 1993.

Gaia has also outshined its predecessor in regards of the visualization of the stars, because while Hipparcos’s gaze reached up to 1,600 light years away, Gaia can “see” stars that are located up to 30 thousand light years away.

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“Gaia is at the forefront of astrometry, charting the sky at precisions that have never been achieved before,” said Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s Director of Science.

It’s worth mentioning that the atlas will be updated four more times, up to 2022.

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