The European Space Agency’s Gaia observatory has just unleashed a “treasure trove” of data on nearly 2 billion stars in the Milky Way, revealing how fast they move toward or away from us, as well as unusual ‘starquakes’ that change the shapes of stars.
Gaia’s third release of data arrived Monday, complete with incredible visualizations of our galactic neighborhood. The space observatory launched in 2013 with a unique quest to deliver the most accurate 3D map of the Milky Way galaxy, with the goal of helping astronomers understand how our galaxy has evolved over time and where we fit in the vast cosmos. Gaia’s first release revealed the position and brightness data for 1.1 billion stars, and this most recent catalogue bumps up that number by quite a bit. The new dataset also includes the largest number of binary stars, as well as galaxies outside the Milky Way and thousands of objects within our own solar system.