Space probe reveals the secrets of the Milky Way

(ORDO NEWS) — The Gaia space probe has unveiled its latest findings in a bid to map the Milky Way in unprecedented detail by studying nearly two million stars and discovering mysterious “starquakes” that sweep through the fire giants like massive tsunamis.

The third mission data set, which was presented to astronomers around the world at 1000 GMT, “revolutionizes our understanding of the galaxy,” the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said at a press conference that this is a “fantastic day for astronomy” because the data “will open the floodgates for new science, for new discoveries about our universe, about our Milky Way.”

But Gaia also sees beyond the Milky Way, revealing 2.9 million other galaxies as well as 1.9 million quasars, the stunningly bright hearts of galaxies powered by supermassive black holes.

The Gaia spacecraft has been in a strategic orbit 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, where it has been observing the sky since its ESA launch in 2013.

Observing starquakes – powerful vibrations that change the shape of distant stars – was “one of the most amazing discoveries made based on new data,” the ESA said.

Gaia has surveyed more than 1.8 billion stars, but that’s only about one percent of the stars in the Milky Way, which is about 100,000 light-years across.

The probe is equipped with two telescopes, as well as a billion-pixel camera, which makes images sharp enough to determine the diameter of a single strand of human hair at a distance of 1,000 kilometers.

The incredibly accurate data “allows us to look more than 10 billion years into our Milky Way’s past,” said Anthony Brown, chairman of the Data Processing and Analysis Consortium, which sifted through the vast amount of data.

They show that our galaxy does not move smoothly through the universe, as previously thought, but is “turbulent” and “restless”, he said.

Tens of thousands of exoplanets

“The surrounding galaxies constantly interact with our galaxy, and sometimes fall into it.”

The final data set will be published in 2030, after Gaia completes its sky survey mission in 2025.

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