Europe’s Gaia mission to study our galaxy in 3D

Gaia liftoff (Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2013)
Gaia liftoff (Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2013)

Main Points:

The European Space Agency (ESA) has launched its 740m-euro (£620m) star-surveying satellite Gaia aboard a Russian-made Soyuz rocket into space from the Sinnamary complex in French Guiana on Thursday at 06:12 local time (09:12 GMT). Gaia is named after an ancient Greek mythic deity.

Study Further:

Immediately after launch, Gaia spread out its 10-meter (33-feet) circular sun shield that not only protects the sensitive instruments from the rays of the sun but also gathers solar energy to give power to spacecraft.

This satellite has one of the most high-powered digital cameras having billion pixels that will also help Gaia along with the twin telescopes to study the position, distance, movement, chemical composition and brightness of nearly 1 billion stars, to search for new planets, to get the most accurate 3D map of the Milky Way galaxy by studying the motion of stars over five years and to better understand the evolution of our galaxy.

The Milky Way Shines on Paranal (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab; background: ESO/S. Brunier)
The Milky Way Shines on Paranal (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab; background: ESO/S. Brunier)

“Gaia promises to build on the legacy of ESA’s first star-mapping mission, Hipparcos, launched in 1989, to reveal the history of the galaxy in which we live,” says Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s Director General.

“It is down to the expertise of Europe’s space industry and scientific community that this next-generation mission is now well and truly on its way to making ground-breaking discoveries about our Milky Way.”

Gaia will begin its study in May 2014 from Lagrange point L2, located 1.5 million km (930 million miles) away from Earth.

Further Reading:

Liftoff for ESA’s billion-star surveyor – ESA (

Usman Zafar Paracha

Usman Zafar Paracha is a sort of entrepreneur. He is the author of "Color Atlas of Statistics", and the owner of an Android game "Faily Rocket."

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