Gaia Mission launched by European Space Agency (ESA) on December 19, 2013, creates the most comprehensive map of our galaxy, the Milky Way.
Gaia will create an extraordinarily precise three-dimensional map of more than a thousand million stars throughout our Milky Way galaxy and beyond, mapping their motions, luminosity, temperature and composition. This huge stellar census will provide the data needed to tackle an enormous range of important questions related to the origin, structure and evolutionary history of our galaxy.
The name ‘GAIA’ was originally derived as an acronym for Global Astrometric Interferometer for Astrophysics. This reflected the optical technique of interferometry that was originally planned for use on the spacecraft. However, the working method changed, and although the acronym is no longer applicable, the name Gaia remains to provide continuity with the project.
The telescope is expected to remain operational until 2025, when it will run out of fuel. But the vast catalog of data the mission creates will keep astronomers busy for decades to come after that. Gaia, launched in 2013, measures the exact positions in the sky, distances from Earth, speeds and trajectories of 2 billion stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way.
The Gaia spacecraft is composed of the payload module, the service module and the deployable sunshield. It had a launch mass of around 2 tonnes.
The payload module is built around a toroidal-shaped optical bench (about 3 m in diameter) which provides the structural support for the single integrated instrument that performs three functions: astrometry, photometry and spectrometry. The payload module also contains all necessary electronics for managing the instrument operation and processing the raw data.
What are Starquakes?
Starquakes are the earthquakes that happen in stars. Starquakes helps scientists to study the events happening within the star.They occur on a magnetar, a mysterious type of star that is extremely dense and magnetic. The first series of starquakes was observed by the Kepler mission, which got launched in 2009.
Starquakes create tiny motions on the surface of a star that could change the shapes of stars.
Studying the formation of stars
Our galaxy is a beautiful melting pot of stars,” says Alejandra Recio-Blanco of the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur in France, who is a member of the Gaia collaboration.
“This diversity is extremely important, because it tells us the story of our galaxy’s formation. It reveals the processes of migration within our galaxy and accretion from external galaxies. It also clearly shows that our Sun, and we, all belong to an ever changing system, formed thanks to the assembly of stars and gas of different origins.”