"The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean... Recently, we've managed to wade a little way out, and the water seems inviting." - Carl Sagan
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.
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.
Image credit: ESA–M. Pedoussaut, 2013