On Friday 17th February we received an excellent talk from Professor Rob Jeffries from Keele University all about the latest ESA space telescope, Gaia.

Gaia is a twin-telescope that will map, catalogue, size and age many stars. The baseline number of stars it will map is 1 billion all of a magnitude of 20 or greater representing around 1% of all the stars in the Milky Way.

Gaia will be working for 5 years and our first significant cut of data will be received in April 2018. It is located at Lagrange point L2 a million miles away from the Earth where it is in a very stable orbit.

Some of the key objectives of the project will be:

  • To produce a stereoscopic (3D) map of the Milky Way
  • To more accurately map out the distance to many stars
  • To more accurately determine the age of many stars
  • To identify thousands of asteroids and comets not seen previously
  • Identify new exoplanets
  • Discover new quasars

Gaia is set to boost our understanding of the Milky Way by such an extent that it should revolutionise astronomy.

If you would like to learn more about the Gaia mission, there’s an app you can get to keep you up to date on your phone:

https://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/gaia/gaia-app

And you can learn more about this amazing project at:

https://gaia.ac.uk/

and

https://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/gaia

Our thanks to Rob who we hope will come back and update us in the future as Gaia unfolds some of the secrets of the Milky Way.

Thanks also to Marilyn for organising this.