Alongside the incredible world of spaceflight, pioneering satellites and an incredible moon landing, the European Space Agency is focusing on one critical mission. It is simply “creating the most accurate and complete multidimensional map of the Milky Way”.
This ambitious endeavor is called Gaia, and for the past several years, the European Space Agency has been making solid progress towards making the dream come true. Collaboration scientists have collected tons of amazing data on more than a billion stars across our galaxy, recording every exciting detail along the way.
And on Monday, the team You have reached a huge checkpoint for the project.
Fortunately for us, it has also released some great visuals that include the treasure chest of cosmic secrets collected so far. This particular landmark is officially referred to as the Gaia 3 data release — and more importantly, it’s one that the European Space Agency says is “the most detailed Milky Way survey to date”.
In this dataset, you can not only see thousands of solar system objects such as asteroids, moons and other celestial marvels within our galaxy, but you can also see millions of galaxies and phenomena the outside Milky Way.
when you look at Statistics for this surveyIt really is jaw dropping. This new wealth of galactic intelligence includes about 6.6 million redshift candidate quasars, also known as the hyperbright jets that occupy supermassive black holes, and possibly their exact locations. It includes 4.8 million candidate galaxies, about 813,000 multi-star systems, 2.3 million hot stars and much more.
Timo Prosti, Project Gaia scientist at ESA, said in a statement.
Some interstellar surprises
According to the team, among the most surprising discoveries in the Gaia 3 data release are strange phenomena called “starquakes”.
Stellar earthquakes are pretty much what they sound like – small movements on the surface of a star that can change its shape or form. Some of these ESA earthquakes compare to vibrations that we associate with “large-scale tsunamis” on Earth.
“Starquakes have taught us a lot about stars, particularly their inner workings. Gaia opens a gold mine for massive star science,” said Connie Aerts of KU Leuven in Belgium and a member of the Gaia Collaboration, in a statement.
Seismology for the stars is what seismology means for the Earth, the study of earthquakes and other wave propagation. A summary of the stellar earthquake portion of the new Gaia data can be seen below.
Another startling revelation was that Gaia Binary Telescope – which harnesses a huge camera of 1 billion pixels – can reveal the chemical composition of the stars under study. This is a big deal that could revolutionize the field of astronomy.
In short, understanding the details of astral bodies’ exact chemicals can help us decipher when they were born, where they were born, and the path they followed after they were born. It can reveal a timeline of the universe.
Using the new Gaia data, the team found that some stars have heavier elements than others. The heavier elements are often metals, and they distinguish themselves from the lighter elements because they have a different core structure.
But the key point here is that the lighter elements, from what experts know so far, are believed to be the only species present during the Big Bang. Essentially, this means that the Gaia 3 data release provides direct evidence of a super-diverse group of stars in our galaxy in terms of both time and place of origin.
“This diversity is very important, because it tells the story of the formation of our galaxy,” Alejandra Recio Blanco of the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur in France and a member of Gaia said in a statement. “It reveals the processes of migration within our galaxy and accumulation from the outer galaxies.”
Taking all of this a step further, displaying Gaia’s efforts kind of reminds us of our place in the universe. Mapping an area far, beyond the immediate vicinity of the Earth inevitably imposes human presence in perspective.
In the words of Ricio Blanco, “This clearly shows that our Sun, and we all belong to an ever-changing system, arose thanks to the assemblage of stars and gases of different origins.”
Other fascinating sightings with Gaia include more than 800 binary star systems, which refer to two stars orbiting each other, unlike our solar system’s unique Sun, and a new asteroid survey of 156,000 rocky bodies.
“We can’t wait for the astronomy community to delve into our new data to discover more about our galaxy and its surroundings than we ever imagined,” Prostie said.
As for Gaia’s next steps, the team intends to continue the effort in what will ultimately be the pinnacle of knowledge for our home galaxy, the Milky Way.
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