Here’s what scientists have found so far

Alongside the incredible world of space travel, groundbreaking satellites and an incredible moon landing, the European Space Agency is focused on a crucial mission. It’s simply about “creating the most accurate and complete multidimensional map of the Milky Way”.

That ambitious endeavor is called Gaia, and in recent years the European Space Agency has made solid strides toward realizing that dream. The scientists in this collaboration have collected tons of amazing data on more than a billion stars in our galaxy, recording every exciting detail along the way.

And on Monday the team They hit a huge checkpoint for the project.

Luckily for us, it also released some great visuals that contain the treasure chest of cosmic mysteries collected so far. This particular milestone is officially dubbed the Gaia 3 data release — and more importantly, it’s one that the European Space Agency says is “the most detailed survey of the Milky Way to date.”

In this dataset you can see not only thousands of solar system objects like asteroids, moons and other celestial wonders in our galaxy, but also millions of galaxies and phenomena the outside Milky Way.


The position of each asteroid was recorded on June 13, 2022 at 12:00 p.m. EDT. Blue represents the interior of the solar system, where asteroids are near Earth, Mars, and Earth-like planets. The main belt between Mars and Jupiter is green. The orange “clouds” correspond to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.

P. Tanga (Observatory of the Côte d’Azur)

if you look at the stats for this poll, it’s really mind-blowing. This new wealth of galactic intelligence includes about 6.6 million redshift candidate quasars, also known as the very bright jets that occupy supermassive black holes, and possibly their precise locations. It includes 4.8 million candidate galaxies, about 813,000 multiple star systems, 2.3 million hot stars and much more.

Timo Prosti, project Gaia scientist at ESA, said in a statement.

Map with bright spots representing galaxies and cosmic clouds.

The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds appear as bright dots in the lower right corner of the image. The Arc Dwarf Galaxy appears as a faint semi-vertical band below the galaxy’s center.

ESA/Gaia/DPAC/CU6, D. Katz, N. Leclerc, P. Sartoretti and the CU6 team.

Some interstellar surprises

According to the team, among the most startling discoveries in the Gaia 3 data release are strange phenomena called “starquakes.”

Stellar earthquakes are pretty much what they sound like – small movements on a star’s surface that can change its shape or shape. Some of these ESA earthquakes are comparable to vibrations we associate with “widespread tsunamis” on Earth.

“Starquakes teach us a lot about stars, especially their inner workings. Gaia is opening a goldmine of ‘asteroseismology’ for massive stars,” said Connie Aerts of KU Leuven in Belgium and a member of the Gaia Collaboration in a statement.

Seismology is to the stars what seismology is to the earth, the study of earthquakes and other wave propagation. A summary of the stellar earthquake portion of the new Gaia data is shown below.

Another startling revelation was that the Gaia Binary Telescope – which uses a giant camera with 1 billion pixels – can reveal the chemical composition of the stars studied. This is a big thing that could revolutionize the field of astronomy.

In short, understanding the precise chemical details of apex astral bodies can help us decipher when they were born, where they were born, and what path they took after birth. It can reveal a timeline of the universe.

Using the new Gaia data, the team found that some stars have heavier elements than others. The heavier elements are often metals and differ from the lighter elements in having a different core structure.

Photographing the stars in the Milky Way, the most mineral-rich galaxy.

This full sky view shows a sample of the Milky Way’s stars in the Gaia 3 data release. Color indicates stellar mineralization. Red stars are rich in minerals.

ESA / Gaia

But the key point here is that, from what experts know so far, the lighter elements are probably the only species present during the Big Bang. Essentially, this means that the Gaia 3 data release provides direct evidence for a super-diverse group of stars in our galaxy in terms of when and where they formed.

“This diversity is very important because it tells the story of how our galaxy was formed,” said Alejandra Recio Blanco of the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur in France and a member of the Gaia Collaboration in a statement. “It shows the migration processes within our galaxy and the accumulation from the outer galaxies.”

Sky map showing the speed of the Milky Way stars.

This sky map shows the velocity field of the Milky Way with about 26 million stars. Blue shows the parts of the sky where the average motion of the stars is moving toward us, while red shows where the average motion is moving away from us.

ESA/Gaia/DPAC/CU6, O. Snaith, D. Katz, P. Sartoretti, N. Leclerc and the CU6 Team.

Taking all of this one step further, the depiction of Gaia’s efforts somehow reminds us of our place in the universe. Mapping an area well beyond the immediate vicinity of Earth inevitably requires human presence in perspective.

In the words of Ricio Blanco: “This clearly shows that our Sun and we all belong to an ever-changing system, formed thanks to the accumulation of stars and gases of different origins.”

Other intriguing sightings with Gaia include more than 800 binary star systems, which, in contrast to our solar system’s unique Sun, refer to two stars orbiting each other, and a new asteroid survey of 156,000 rock bodies.

Multicolored representation of asteroids in the Milky Way.

This image shows the orbits of more than 150,000 asteroids – from the inner parts of the solar system to Trojan asteroids some distance from Jupiter. The yellow circle in the center represents the sun. Blue represents the interior of the solar system, where there are asteroids near Earth and crossing Mars and the terrestrial planets. The main belt between Mars and Jupiter is green. Jupiter Red Trojan.

P. Tanga (Observatory of the Côte d’Azur)

“We can’t wait for the astronomy community to dive into our new data to learn more about our galaxy and its surroundings than we ever imagined,” Prostie said.

As for Gaia’s next steps, the team intends to continue efforts on what will ultimately be the pinnacle of knowledge for our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

A representation of our position in the Milky Way.

This image shows an artist’s rendering of the Milky Way, overlaid with an overlay showing the position and density of a young star pattern from the Gaia 3 data release (in yellow-green). The sign “You are here” refers to the sun.

ESA / Kevin Jardine, Stefan Payne-Wardenaar

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