Data collected from the European Space Agency’s Gaia observatory has enabled astronomers to release the most detailed 3D map of the milky way to this day, an achievement that promises to shed unprecedented light on the broader universe.
The vast electronic atlas of the galaxy and its stars moving through space was compiled from data gathered by the Gaia observatory, which has been scanning the heavens since it blasted off in 2013 from Kourou in French Guiana.
Astronomers from the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) saw the evidence of the Milky Way’s past by looking at stars in the direction of the galaxy’s ‘anti center’. This is in the exact opposite direction of the sky from the center of the galaxy.
The latest data pinpoints the location and movements of just under 2 billion stars, with highly accurate measurements of about 300,000 stars within 326 light-years of the solar system. The new map shows us that our solar system’s orbit around the Milky Way is accelerating toward the center of the galaxy by seven millimeters per second, according to the MIT Technology Review.
The results on the anti center come from one of the four ‘demonstration papers’ released alongside the Gaia data. The others use Gaia data to provide a huge extension to the census of nearby stars, derive the shape of the Solar System’s orbit around the center of the galaxy, and probe structures in two nearby galaxies to the Milky Way.
The papers are designed to highlight the improvements and quality of the newly published data.
The map contains enough detail for astronomers to measure the acceleration of the solar system and calculate the mass of the galaxy. These in turn will provide clues as to how the solar system formed and the rate at which the universe has expanded since the dawn of time, The Guardian wrote.