Gaia, on the other hand, sees beyond the Milky Way, detecting 2.9 million other galaxies and 1.9 million quasars – the stunningly bright centers of galaxies powered by supermassive black holes. ( A space probe has discovered the secrets of the’restless’ Milky Way )
On Monday, the Gaia space probe revealed the latest findings in its quest to map the Milky Way in unprecedented detail, surveying nearly two million stars and revealing mysterious “starquakes” that sweep across the fiery giants like vast tsunamis.
The third data set from the mission, which was released to eagerly awaiting astronomers around the world at 1000 GMT, “revolutionizes our understanding of the galaxy,” according to the European Space Agency (ESA).
ESA Director-General Josef Aschbacher said at a press conference that the data “will open the floodgates for new science, for new discoveries of our universe, of our Milky Way.”
Some of the map’s new discoveries were close to home, such as a catalog of over 156,000 asteroids in our Solar System “whose orbits the instrument has calculated with incomparable precision,” according to Francois Mignard, a member of the Gaia team.
Gaia, on the other hand, sees beyond the Milky Way, detecting 2.9 million other galaxies and 1.9 million quasars – the stunningly bright centers of galaxies powered by supermassive black holes
The Gaia spacecraft has been watching the skies from a strategically placed orbit 1.5 million kilometers (937,000 miles) above Earth since it was launched by the ESA in 2013.
The observation of starquakes, massive vibrations that change the shape of distant stars, was described by the ESA as “one of the most surprising discoveries coming out of the new data.”
Gaia was not designed to detect starquakes, but it did detect them on thousands of stars, including some that should not have any based on our current understanding of the universe.
“We have a fantastic new gold mine to do asteroseismology on hundreds of thousands of stars in our Milky Way galaxy,” Gaia team member Conny Aerts said.
Gaia has surveyed over 1.8 billion stars, but this only represents about 1% of the stars in the Milky Way, which spans 100,000 light years.
The probe is outfitted with two telescopes as well as a billion-pixel camera capable of measuring the diameter of a single strand of human hair from 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) away.
It also has a variety of other instruments that allow it to measure the stars’ movements, chemical compositions, and ages, in addition to mapping them.
According to Anthony Brown, chair of the Data Processing and Analysis Consortium, which sifted through the massive amount of data, the incredibly precise data “allows us to look more than 10 billion years into the past history of our own Milky Way.”
Mignard stated that the results of Gaia are already “far beyond what we expected.”
They demonstrate that our galaxy is not moving smoothly through the universe as previously thought, but rather is “turbulent” and “restless,” he said.
“It has had and continues to have a lot of accidents” as it interacts with other galaxies, he says. “Perhaps it will never reach a standstill.”
“Our galaxy is a living entity, where objects are born and die,” Aerts explained.
‘Thousands upon thousands of exoplanets’
“The surrounding galaxies are constantly interacting with our galaxy and occasionally falling inside of it.”
Along with the new data, approximately 50 scientific papers were published, with many more expected in the coming years.
Since the release of its first dataset in 2016, Gaia’s observations have fueled thousands of studies.
The second dataset, released in 2018, demonstrated that the Milky Way merged with another galaxy in a violent collision around 10 billion years ago.
It took the team five years to deliver the most recent data, which was collected between 2014 and 2017.
After Gaia completes its mission of surveying the skies in 2025, the final dataset will be released in 2030.
Only two new exoplanets were confirmed on Monday, along with 200 other potential candidates, but far more are expected in the future.
“In principle, Gaia should be capable of detecting tens of thousands of exoplanets down to Jupiter’s mass if it runs for the full ten years,” Brown said. ( A space probe has discovered the secrets of the’restless’ Milky Way – celebrity jazz ug )