Fresh From Our Universe: 1 Billion Star Map Image from the GAIA space satellite

I just stumbled upon this brilliant photograph, which was taken about two weeks ago by the ESA’s(European Space Agency) GAIA satellite. GAIA has been taking pictures of our galaxy while going around the sun, since it launched in 2013.

After covering nearly 1.5 million km or roughly a million miles, it has taken this breathtaking picture of our galaxy, showing in it nearly a billion stars!

On its way to assembling the most detailed 3D map ever made of our Milky Way galaxy, Gaia has pinned down the precise position on the sky and the brightness of 1142 million stars.

Gaia is at the forefront of astrometry, charting the sky at precisions that have never been achieved before. Today’s release gives us a first impression of the extraordinary data that await us and that will revolutionise our understanding of how stars are distributed and move across our Galaxy.” says Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s Director of Science.

The satellite is working well and we have demonstrated that it is possible to handle the analysis of a billion stars. Although the current data are preliminary, we wanted to make them available for the astronomical community to use as soon as possible,” adds Dr Prusti.

GAIA uses a billion pixel camera along with two telescopes, which make it capable of taking such  high resolution picture!

Launched 1000 days ago,  this first release is the most accurate and encompassing image of our galaxy ever taken.



This is what it looks like. Take a look at that again. Isn’t it unbelievably intricate and astounding?

It’s so intricate, and woven like a womb almost. It further highlights how amazing our universe really is and how little we actually know about it. How did all this come about? In such detail? Seriously, If that’s on your mind, take a detour… If you want the answers to those questions check out one of the initial few blog posts of mine 

The image looks a little bit like the Death Star from Star wars except expanded and elliptical. Haha, I’m just kidding 😛

I suggest if you want clearer and larger images that you visit this link and download the High-Res pictures of it available.

Here is the link

Look for the right hand side coloumn to find the images.

Let us first examine the Annotated version of the image to make some sense out of it.


“This map shows the density of stars observed by Gaia in each portion of the sky. Brighter regions indicate denser concentrations of stars, while darker regions correspond to patches of the sky where fewer stars are observed.

The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, with most of its stars residing in a disc about 100 000 light-years across and about 1000 light-years thick. This structure is visible in the sky as the Galactic Plane – the brightest portion of this image –which runs horizontally and is especially bright at the centre.

Darker regions across the Galactic Plane correspond to dense clouds of interstellar gas and dust that absorb starlight along the line of sight.

Many globular and open clusters – groupings of stars held together by their mutual gravity – are also sprinkled across the image.”

Just to give you an idea of what the Milky way looks like here is a video of pictures taken from the famous Hubble Telescope.

I was just awestruck by the picture and even made it my desktop wallpaper 😛

It’s great that GAIA is able to take such pictures and give us a better understanding of our universe.

It’s on a 5 year mission, so the picture will get clearer and more detailed by the time the mission ends.

It is only halfway through its 5-year mission and GAIA is set to still cover a billion more stars by 2017! It is a massive deal for mankind because Gaia’s photos will reveal other interesting details about our galaxy — asteroids, exploding supernovas, that may threaten the Earth in the future, planets circling nearby stars, etc. — which were all previously undetected.

Here it is in colour


We’re waiting for more amazing pictures and more knowledge about our universe  GAIA.
Keep going!

Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC

Acknowledgement: A. Moitinho & M. Barros (CENTRA – University of Lisbon), on behalf of DPAC

Hope you people enjoyed this one.

Keep the curiosity going 🙂

Cheers! 😀


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