Scientists have long been working to create the mostdetailed map of the Milky Way, but only recently have they been able to significantly improve it. The European Space Agency's (ESA) Gaia Space Telescope monitors the movement of more than a billion stars in our galaxy and sends back to Earth not just a static image of celestial bodies, but a vivid picture of how the stars will change their position over time. The data obtained will form the basis of research both on the origin and evolution of the galaxy, and on determining the location of mysterious dark matter in it. At the forefront of astronomical science, researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands aim to gain as much information as possible about our galactic home. Using data from the Gaia Space Telescope, the researchers studied the movement of a large number of stars and found evidence of galactic mergers that took place billions of years ago. It is possible that the new star map of the Milky Way will be able to transform astronomy.
Milky Way Stars
The Gaia Space Observatory was launched onearth orbit at the end of 2013. Located one and a half million kilometers from Earth, the telescope began observing the stars of our galaxy in July 2014. Since then, he has continuously scanned the sky, slowly revolving around himself and peering into the depths of the cosmic ocean. The space telescope allows scientists to track the almost imperceptible movements of stars along the Milky Way, according to a paper published in the journal Nature. According to Scientific American, the cost of this unique telescope is
one billion dollars.
Recently, experts from the European SpaceThe agencies released new observational data called Gaia Early Data Release 3 (EDR3), which provided updated information on a billion stars, including more accurate calculations of their positions and velocities. It is this data that astronomers need to compile the most detailed map of our galaxy and a better understanding of its evolution. Data collection took researchers 34 months in total.
This is interesting: the Milky Way “throws out” stars from itself
By carefully examining previous datasets for2016 and 2018, researchers found that they are currently being cited in the literature at a rate of 3,000 times a year. One website has already cataloged 4324 peer-reviewed articles based on data obtained by Gaia, suggesting their widespread use in astronomy.
The publication of a new batch of data has been acceptedthe astronomical community as a Christmas present, as Michelle Collins of the University of Surrey in the UK tweeted about. And Juan Alves of the University of Vienna has published graphs of the same group of stars to compare Gaia's latest dataset with previous data, while thanking the European Space Agency experts who "made dreams come true."
Notably, the new EDR3 datasetThe space telescope has been collecting for three years, which allowed astronomers to expand the catalog of stars by 15% - up to 1.8 billion, and Gaia measurements as a whole have become more accurate. So, compared to 2018, the calculations for measuring distances have become more accurate by 50%, and measurements of the speed of stars - by 100%.
To achieve such stunning results, scientists had to overcome an unexpected problem: when Gaia rotates, sunlight hits the telescope at different angles, which slightly distorts its shape. This deformation affected position measurementsmore stars than expected. Today, researchers have partially learned how to correct this unpleasant effect, and in the future they expect to completely eliminate it.
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What is displayed on the new map?
The third dataset collected by Gaia includes a complete census of the Sun's neighborhood: a total of over 300,000 objects. The space telescope's detailed measurements of the motion of the stars also allowed researchers to predict what Earth's night sky will look like over the next 1.6 million years: as the stars move, all the constellations we currently see will eventually disappear.
In addition to the stars, Gaia also followsquasars - the fiery hearts of other galaxies located much further away. Quasars are too far away from us to appear almost motionless, making them ideal reference points for tracking the movement of other objects, including tectonic plates on Earth.
According to the data received, the solar system is accelerating by 7 millimeters per second per year.
According to the representatives of the Europeanspace agency, a more detailed dataset is due to be published in 2022. It will include updated data on the spectra of stars. What's more, astronomers expect to see thousands of new stars swaying under the gravitational pull of other objects, thus providing a new tool for detecting thousands of massive exoplanets. After that, the Gaia team expects to create at least one more significantly improved map of our galaxy. The space observatory will continue to collect data until 2025.