Professor Rob JeffriesThe European Space Agency Gaia satellite was launched in December 2013. The aim of the mission was to map the precise positions and motions of a billion stars and nearer objects in our own Milky Way Galaxy and solar system. In April 2018 Gaia released its intermediate results catalogue, which gave us the first fruits of its labour.

We welcomed back Rob Jeffries after two and a half years to give us an update on what the Gaia space telescope has been doing.  In that time it has managed to map, in 3D, approximately 1 billion astronomical objects.  Not only stars but planets, comets asteroids and quasars.

It was only to last 5 years but has been going 7 years and still collecting data.  Processing this data is done by over 500 people world wide as well as Professors in Universities like Keele.  It is expected that its 3D catalogue should be complete by September of next year. Rob presented tables of the kinds of things Gaia looks at and what has been discovered up to now.

He explained the spacecraft has discovered thousands of Jupiter-sized exoplanets beyond the Solar System.  Together with 500,00 quasars and tens of thousands of new asteroids and comets within the Solar System.  He told us that we are not in imminent danger of being struck by an asteroid but it is a possibility!

It was an enjoyable talk and there were plenty of questions asked.  Rob said afterwards that he had enjoyed his visit.

Marilyn Bentley