The European Space Agency (ESA) has released the most detailed 3D map ever created of the Milky Way, showing the positions of more than a billion stars.
Gaia, ESA’s tiny satellite, has been on a mission since July 2014 to collect as much data about our galaxy as possible.
As well as gathering the information for the galactic atlas, Gaia has been capturing data on the brightness of around 1142 million stars.
The map details the density of stars observed by Gaia in each portion of the sky. The brightest parts indicate where stars are more concentrated, while fewer stars were observed in the darker regions.
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The satellite is now more than two years in to its five-year-mission to catalogue the Milky Way. Its work will help scientists understand the formation, evolution and structure of the galaxy.
“Gaia is at the forefront of astrometry, charting the sky at precisions that have never been achieved before,” says Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s director of science.
Gaia will measure each of its target stars about 70 times over the course of its mission, monitoring distances, movements and changes in brightness – that’s an average of 40 million observations per day.
Giménez added: “(The) release gives us a first impression of the extraordinary data that await us and that will revolutionize our understanding of how stars are distributed and move across our galaxy.”