Astronomers were hit on Thursday (December 3) with a huge wave of data from the European Space Agency's Gaia Space Observatory

These researchers can now explore the best map of the Milky Way, with detailed information about the positions, distances and movement of 18 billion cosmic objects, to help us better understand our place in the universe

“Gaia's data is like a tsunami going through astrophysics”, said Martin Barstow, Head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester, who is part of Gaia's data processing team. He was speaking at a virtual press conference held on Thursday, during which another Gaia researcher, Giorgia Busso from the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, also told reporters that this data produced “a revolution” in many areas of astrophysics, from the study of the galactic. dynamics like stellar evolution to the study of nearby objects like asteroids in the solar system

Gaia was launched in December 2013 to map the galaxy in unprecedented detail Billion dollar spacecraft revolves around Lagrange-2 point, ou L2, a place around 1 million de miles (15 million kilometers) of the earth, where the gravitational forces between our planet and the sun are balanced and the view of the sky is clear Gaia can measure approximately 100000 stars every minute, or 850 million objects every day, and can scan the whole sky about once every two months

Latest Data Mine Improves Accuracy and Range of Previous Two Gaia Datasets, which were published in 2016 and 2018 for example, compared to data from 2018, which included measures for 17 billion objects, the data 2020 improve data point accuracy by a factor of two for correct movement, or the apparent change in the position of a star as seen from our solar system

“It really gives us a glimpse into Milky Way life.”, said Nicholas Walton, astronomer at the University of Cambridge who is part of the Gaia science team, at the same scientific and press conference. “We are talking about billions of stars, which really gives us the possibility of probing at a significant level the entire population of the Milky Way, as you would like to do while studying people.”

Walton said the cosmic census would be like having trackers on every person in the UK to map their location and monitor their health “If everyone has a tracker, we could tell you if he's sweating or not It's a bit like that with the stars here: we can tell you which ones are sweating, which are active, which are dormant, which ones will die, which will explode”

Gaia’s data has already been used in a wide range of applications over the past four years The mission has helped researchers find the corpse of a galaxy that the Milky Way cannibalized ago 10 billion years, to identify 20 hypervelocity stars that zoom unexpectedly towards the galactic center and identify approximately 1000 nearby stars where hypothetical aliens could see signs of life on Earth

Closer to home, the spacecraft allowed scientists to find previously unknown asteroids, and its precise data even allowed NASA to make a crucial last-minute adjustment to the trajectory of its New Horizons probe in 2018 to successfully pass the ice cream. Rock Arrokoth, the most remote and primitive object in the solar system ever visited by a spacecraft

Until now, some 1 600 studies have been published based on data from Gaia, Barstow said Surely more of the recently released material will follow, now available on the ESA website, and at the end of the briefing for scientists and journalists, Walton said he expected many scientists to think about it already.: “I think a lot of astronomers would. left this show to work on data”

Some of the new Gaia data has already been used to make discoveries A group of researchers led by scientists from the Dresden University of Technology have measured the acceleration of our solar system inside the Milky Way, using Gaia as reference points 16 million newly observed quasars, which are so far away that they seem fixed in space, like galactic lighthouses

The solar system has been measured to be in very slight acceleration, as expected by theorists, to the galactic center Busso said this barely noticeable acceleration only became observable in this newly released Gaia data because “the accuracy of the measurements has increased considerably.”

These super precise tests of how masses are distributed and accelerated are essential for «probing the limits of fundamental physics», said Gerry Gilmore, astronomer at Cambridge University and scientist at Gaia, during the event. Such measurements could help scientists understand the nature of dark matter that, we know it, hides in the whole universe.

“Even our own sun is moving so fast that our entire Milky Way would split apart if it weren't held up by dark matter, and we have no idea what dark matter is”, said Gilmore “The hope is that by continuing the experiments in the direction that we are doing – and making them more precise and making them at different scales – we will be able to see if there are different types of dark matter.”

The third Gaia dataset was to be released in 2022, but mission scientists decided to release preliminary data now so astronomers can use it sooner, with at least two more datasets to be published in the coming years. The spaceship will operate until 2022 at least, but his mission could be extended until 2025

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