Map of our Galaxie consisting of one billion stars (ESA)
At the beginning of this century, the European Spatial Agency (ESA) started a new ambitious project, called Gaia, to determine the position of a billion stars of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, with unequalled precision. Those first billion of stars only represents 0.5% of all stars of the Milky Way. The Gaia satellite was launched on 19 December 2013.
This map consists of 1142 millions of stars, observed by the satellite between July 2014 and September 2015.
The satellite Gaia observes the Milky Way in all directions, which are half a million times fainter than what is visible to the naked eye. Each star is observed 70 times on average, so that not only its position but also its velocity can be computed. This ultra-precise map allows astronomers to study on a large data set of different types and to make discoveries related to the composition and the formation of the Milky Way.
Thanks to the Gaia dual telescope, this is currently the largest and most precise map.
Satellite operations are planned until 2019. The final Gaia catalogue is planned for 2022.
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Dr. Jan Cuypers (5 May 1956 - † 28 Feb. 2017)
Jan Cuypers began to work at the Royal Observatory of Belgium on August 1978.
He was the chief of the Operational Direction “Astronomy and Astrophysics” and the responsible of the Information Service of the Observatory.
During his years at the Observatory, he was the Project Investigator of the still ongoing project Gaia.