Gaia: the cosmic camera that will chart a billion stars
Humanity has been looking at the stars since its earliest days, and some of the greatest leaps in science have come as a result of stargazing. Indeed, astronomy was at the heart of the origin of what we now know as the scientific method, with such names as Flamsteed, Newton, Halley, Wren and Boyle involved in producing what was then the most comprehensive star catalogue, listing the positions of 3,000 stars.
Position is vital for astronomy — you can’t study a star if you can’t find it. The science of star position is called astrometry and it’s still a subject of intense research as we try to expand our understanding of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, and its history.
Like much astronomy, astrometry is now carried out by a combination of ground-based and space telescopes, and the latest astrometry mission will be carried out from space. A new space telescope called Gaia is currently undergoing its final preparations at EADS Astrium’s cleanroom in Toulouse, before it is shipped out to the European Space Agency’s launch site in Kourou, French Guiana, before going into service atop a Soyuz rocket.
July 26, 2013
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