1.7 billion stars!
It might be hard to find the “You Are Here” circle on this one.
The European Space Agency (ESA) just released the richest and most extensive map ever made of our Milky Way galaxy and stars beyond.
The map is based on the latest data from the ESA’s Gaia mission, which was launched with the goal of creating the largest and most precise three-dimensional map of our galaxy.
So far, its results are stunning.
The latest data release pins down the positions of almost 1.7 billion stars. By mapping out the location, brightness, and details of the stars in our galaxy, Gaia helps us understand where and how our Solar System fits into the greater whole.
“Gaia will greatly advance our understanding of the universe on all cosmic scales,” Timo Prusti, a Gaia project scientist at ESA, said in a news release announcing the discovery.
“Even in the neighbourhood of the Sun, which is the region we thought we understood best, Gaia is revealing new and exciting features.”
The Gaia data provides an unprecedented level of detailed information about the stars in our galaxy, with precise distance, brightness, colour, and motion indicators for more than a billion stars.
The dataset also includes previously unknown information about asteroids hurtling through our Solar System.
In maps created from the new data, it’s possible to see the brightness and colour of the stars, their density, and even the interstellar dust that fills the galaxy.