Washington: ESA`s billion-star surveyor Gaia is ready to depart for its launch site in French Guiana, as it sets to embark on a five-year mission to map the stars with unprecedented precision.
Gaia`s main goal is to create a highly accurate 3D map of our Milky Way Galaxy by repeatedly observing a billion stars to determine their precise positions in space and their motions through it.
Other measurements will assess the vital physical properties of each star, including its temperature, luminosity, and composition.
The resulting census will allow astronomers to determine the origin and the evolution of our galaxy.
Gaia will also uncover tens of thousands of previously unseen objects, including asteroids in our solar system, planets around nearby stars, and exploding stars-supernovas-in other galaxies.
"Gaia will be ESA`s discovery machine. It will tell us what our home galaxy is made of and how it was put together in greater detail than ever before, putting Europe at the forefront of precision astronomy," Alvaro Gimenez, ESA`s Director of Science and Robotic Exploration, said.
Gaia will be launched later in 2013 on an Arianespace Soyuz rocket from Europe`s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, and will map the stars from an orbit around the Sun, near a location some 1.5 million km beyond Earth`s orbit known as the L2 Lagrangian point.
During its five-year mission, the spacecraft will spin slowly, sweeping its two telescopes equipped with the largest digital camera ever flown in space-with nearly a billion pixels-across the entire sky.