Countdown To Launch Of ESA’S Billion-Star Surveyor
ESA’s billion-star surveyor Gaia will be launched from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou on 20 November to begin 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 positions in space and their movement through it.
Other measurements will assess the vital physical properties of each star, including temperature, luminosity and composition. The resulting census will allow astronomers to determine the origin and the evolution of our Galaxy.
Gaia 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.
The spacecraft will spin slowly, sweeping its two telescopes across the entire sky and focusing their light simultaneously onto a single digital camera, the largest ever flown in space – it has nearly a billion pixels.