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Scientists go gaga over Gaia’s galaxy survey

Gaia view of Milky Way
A newly released image from the European Space Agency’s Gaia star-mapping mission shows a full-sky view of our Milky Way galaxy and neighboring galaxies in color. (ESA / Gaia / DPAC)

The European Space Agency has released the world’s most exhaustive star catalog, pinpointing the positions of nearly 1.7 billion stars.

Today’s release, based on 22 months’ worth of data from ESA’s Gaia sky-mapping satellite, follows up on an initial version of the catalog that was released in 2016. This second release adds readings from the period between September 2015 and May 2016.

The Gaia mission’s second data release was presented at the ILA Berlin Air and Space Show in Germany. In addition to the positional data, the new catalog lists parallax and velocity readings for 1.3 billion stars — making it easy for astronomers to plot their distances and motions with respect to Earth.

“The observations collected by Gaia are redefining the foundations of astronomy,” Günther Hasinger, ESA’s director of science, said in a news release.

Astronomy fans agreed, and gushed over the treasure trove on Twitter.

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Gaia satellite charts a billion stars in Milky Way

Milky Way
This image shows stars in the Milky Way, plus neighboring galaxies. (Credit: ESA / Gaia / DPAC)

The team behind the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite has released its first catalog of more than a billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy, but that’s just the start.

Eventually, the readings from Gaia’s all-sky survey of celestial objects will be assembled into the most detailed 3-D map ever made of our home galaxy.

“Gaia is at the forefront of astrometry, charting the sky at precisions that have never been achieved before,” Alvaro Gimenez, ESA’s director of science, said in an announcement accompanying the Sept. 14 data release.

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