New Milky Way Map Is a Spectacular Billion-Star Atlas
The most accurate map of the Milky Way ever produced includes some 400 million stars never before seen by humans.
After more than two years spent gluing its eyes to the heavens, an advanced celestial mapmaker has released its first results—wowing astronomers with the most accurate view of our Milky Way ever assembled.
The announcement marks the first release of data from Gaia, a spacecraft operated by the European Space Agency (ESA). Launched in December 2013, the spacecraft currently sits a million miles away from Earth in the gravitational parking spot known as L2. From this unique vantage point, the craft has been cataloging stars and looking for shifts in their apparent positions caused by the spacecraft’s orbital motion around the sun.
Measuring these shifts, or parallaxes, lets astronomers calculate the stars’ actual positions and movements through the galaxy with great