Gaia satellite launched to map billions of stars in the Milky Way
Zee Media Bureau
Paris: European Space Agency on Thursday launched its Gaia mission which will provide a three-dimensional picture of the Milky Way galaxy, measuring appropriate positions and distances of more than a billion stars.
The satellite successfully lifted off on a Soyuz-STB-Fregat rocket from ESA’s space base in Kourou, French Guiana.
The star surveying satellite separated from the last of the rocket’s four stages 42 minutes after launch.
The 740-million-euro ($1.02-billion) gadget, Gaia`s primary goal is to carry out an "astronomical census", locating the position of a billion stars, or around one percent of all the stars in the Milky Way.
By repeating the observations as many as 70 times throughout its mission, the telescope can help astronomers calculate the distance, speed, direction and motion of these stars.
Gaia, using a six-sided "optical bench" three metres (10 feet) across to snare glimmers of light, is 200 times more sensitive than Hipparcos in measuring the angles that, through triangulation, determine a star`s position.
Gaia`s secondary objectives are equally stunning. By monitoring the "wobble" in stellar light as a planet passes in front of a star, it can add to knowledge about worlds beyond the Solar System.
By some estimates, it could detect as many as 50,000 planets within a distance of 150 light years from the Sun, or 10 times more than have been observed since the first was spotted in 1995.
Gaia will also be turning its eyes to our own Solar System, scouring its chill, dark fringes and the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter to help the search for any rocks that may one day threaten Earth.
Other potential bounty includes real-time observations of exploding stars, called supernovae, in distant galaxies and insights into strange "failed" stars, known as brown dwarves that drift listlessly through interstellar space after failing to gain enough mass to ignite.
Gaia may provide a useful test of Einstein`s theory of general relativity, which says that a star`s position will appear to move slightly as a result of light from it that is deflected by a passing, massive object.
After launch, Gaia will take up position at the so-called Lagrange point L2, located 1.5 million kilometres (937,000 miles) from the Earth.
L2 is a position that gives it year-round observation of the cosmos without the view being disturbed by the Sun, Earth or Moon.
It is the go-to place for space observatories. L2 has been used by Europe`s Herschel and Planck telescopes and is designated as the slot for NASA`s eagerly-awaited James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
To stay at L2, the spacecraft will have to perform tiny manoeuvres every month, scrutinised by a network of telescopes on Earth to ensure a hoped-for accuracy of 100 metres (yards).
One of the biggest challenges will be processing what Jean-Yves Le Gall, head of France`s National Centre of Space Studies (CNES), calls "an absolute flood" of data.
Gaia will provide the equivalent of more than 30,000 CD-ROMs.
Sorting this stuff and turning it into useable data -- galaxy maps and star catalogues -- will take years.
Six centres have been set up around Europe to handle the deluge, including a supercomputer in Toulouse, southwestern France, capable of carrying out six thousand billion operations a second.
(With Agency inputs)
More from India
More from World
More from Sports
More from Entertaiment
- IAF Mirage fighter plane lands on Yamuna Expressway!
- 'Maggi' under regulatory scanner for excess amount of lead, MSG
- Watch: Michelle Obama's 'Gimme Five' fitness video
- When Subramanian Swamy shocked people at a wedding!
- Mumbaikars join hands to save Pakistani teen with rare illness
- Mumbai: Diamond export company denies job to Muslim youth
- Aapke Sitare: Astro prediction for May 21, 2015
- Mirage 2000 fighter jet landing was part of capability demonstration: IAF
- DNA: IAF Mirage 2000 fighter plane lands successfully on Yamuna expressway
- PM Modi speaks at Golden Jubilee celebrations of poet Dinkar’s works
- DNA: Osama documents show 'Indian brother in Madinah' financed al Qaeda
- ISIS executes Syrian fighter using anti-tank rocket launcher
- PM Modi's key campaign team member may join Nitish Kumar
- Woman robbed at gunpoint inside Hyderabad ATM
- Coal scam: Naveen Jindal, Madhu Koda and others get bail
- RBSE (rajresults.nic.in) Class 12th science and commerce results 2015: Rajasthan Board Class 12th XII exam results 2015 to be announced today at 4 PM
- CBSE Class 10 Results 2015 to be announced today?
- IAF jet lands on Yamuna expressway
- Check Jharkhand Board jac.nic.in: Class 12th Art Results 2015 declared
- Log on to apeamcet.org AP EAMCET Results 2015: Andhra Pradesh EAMCET Marks and AP EAMCET Ranks 2015 declared
- Fawad Khan doesn’t want intimate scenes with Sonam Kapoor?
- We hire only non-Muslim candidates, diamond export firm tells Muslim youth
- Is MSG in 'Maggi' noodles harmful for you?
- Mumbai firm booked for denying Muslim MBA graduate job on religious grounds, probe ordered
- New IPL rules could see Chennai Super Kings lose MS Dhoni
- 'IAS officer DK Ravi possibly committed suicide, suffered big loss in real estate business'
- Jayalalithaa makes public appearance, meets Governor: As it happened
- SSLC (tnresults.nic.in) Tenth 10th Results 2015: Tamil Nadu Board Class 10th X Higher Secondary exam results 2015 to be announced today at 10 am
- `Piku` hits jackpot, does Rs 100 crore business worldwide
- Anurag Kashyap to bid goodbye to India, settle in 'cinema-friendly' France!