BERLIN ( Associated Press) – The European Space Agency has released a massive amount of data on the nearly 2 billion stars in the Milky Way collected by its Gaia mission in an effort to produce the most accurate and comprehensive map of our galaxy.
Astronomers use the data to better understand how stars are born and die, and how galaxies have evolved over billions of years.
The data includes new information such as the age, mass, temperature and chemical composition of stars. It can be used, for example, to determine which stars were born in another galaxy and later migrated to the Milky Way.
“It’s an incredible goldmine for astronomy,” said Antonella Valenari, who helped lead a consortium of 450 scientists and engineers who spent years turning the measurements collected by the probe into usable data. Spend it.
Gaia was also able to detect more than 100,000 so-called starquakes, which the European Space Agency (ESA) compared to a giant tsunami wave rippling through the stars. These allow scientists to deduce the density, internal rotation and temperature inside stars, explained astrophysicist Connie Aerts.
Although it has collected information about only 1% of the stars in the Milky Way, the mission already provides the basis for about 1,600 scientific publications a year.
Project scientist Timo Prusty indicated that the large number of observed stars would allow scientists to make very unusual discoveries.
“You have to look at a lot of objects to be able to put the needle into the haystack,” he said.
ESA chief Josef Aschbacher said having more data allows astronomers to understand some of the forces at play in the Milky Way, such as how our own solar system is being thrown into the Milky Way.
“It enables things that would not be possible without such a huge amount of data,” he said.
Gaia data now being released includes information on 800,000 binaries-cum-moving stars as well as many new exoplanets, hundreds of thousands of asteroids in the Solar System, and millions of objects beyond our galaxy.