Saturday, December 7, 2013

European Space Agency’s Gaia Project

Project Gaia is a space observatory being launched on December 20th, 2013, by the European Space Agency.

Gaia will be launched from the ESA’s spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, on a Soyuz ST-B rocket and will be boosted by a Fregat-MT upper stage to the Sun–Earth Lagrange point L2 located approximately 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. The L2 point will provide the spacecraft with a very stable thermal environment.

Gaia is an ambitious mission to chart a three-dimensional map of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, in the process revealing the composition, formation and evolution of the Galaxy. Gaia will provide unprecedented positional and radial velocity measurements with the accuracies needed to produce a stereoscopic and kinematic census of about one billion stars in our Galaxy and throughout the Local Group.

Gaia’s purpose is to catalogue the positions, substances and movements of a vast number of celestial bodies in our Milky Way over a period of five years, creating a 3-D map that will be available to astronomers world-wide. This amounts to about 1 per cent of the Galactic stellar population.

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