ESA releases richest star map ever of our galaxy

Updated 2018-04-26 14:09:01 Xinhua

The European Space Agency (ESA) on Wednesday released the richest star catalogue to date, revealing previously unseen details of our home Galaxy.

The new data release, which covers the period between July 25, 2014 and May 23, 2016, pins down the positions of nearly 1.7 billion stars, and with a much greater precision.

"For some of the brightest stars in the survey, the level of precision equates to Earth-bound observers being able to spot a Euro coin lying on the surface of the Moon," according to the ESA.

The latest data release is the second of its kind produced by the ESA's Gaia mission, whose goal is to chart a three-dimensional map of the milky way, revealing in the process the composition, formation and evolution of the Galaxy.

The first data release was published in 2016, containing distances and motions of only 2 million stars.

The much awaited second release is expected to usher in a multitude of astronomical discoveries. An initial examination performed by the data consortium to validate the quality of the catalogue has already unveiled some promising surprises, including new insights on the evolution of stars, according to the ESA.

"Scientists will be busy with this data for many years, and we are ready to be surprised by the avalanche of discoveries that will unlock the secrets of our Galaxy," Fred Jansen, Gaia mission manager was quoted by the ESA as saying.

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