Milky Way telescope to launch
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
The biggest 3-D map of the Milky Way will be provided with Gaia.Europe on Dec. 19 will place a billion-dollar bet on a space telescope designed to provide the biggest and most detailed 3-D map of the Milky Way.
A Soyuz-STB-Fregat rocket will lift off from Kourou, French Guiana, hoisting the observatory Gaia on a five-year exploration that may sweep away notions of our place in the galaxy.
The most sophisticated space telescope ever built by Europe, the 740-million-euro gadget goes by the unofficial epithet of “discovery machine.” “The list of Gaia’s potential discoveries makes the mission unique in scope and scientific return,” says the European Space Agency (ESA).
Gaia’s primary goal is to carry out an “astronomical census,” locating the position of a billion stars, or around one percent of all the stars in the Milky Way. By repeating the observations as many as 70 times throughout its mission, the telescope can help astronomers calculate the distance, speed, direction and motion of these stars. “Within two years from now we will have the first compendium of the sky,” said Francois Mignard of France’s Cote d’Azur Observatory.