Astronomers from the UK have created a new map of the Milky Way Galaxy, made up of nearly two billion stars. It used data collected by the European Space Agency's (ESA) Gaia Space Observatory.
Cambridge University experts led the creation of the cosmic atlas of two billion stars, which they believe could shed light on how our galaxy was formed and what might happen to it in the distant future.
The detailed map is based on the latest data from ESA's Gaia mission, which has two satellites 930,000 miles from Earth that measure the distance to and between star objects across the galaxy.
The map and associated data allow astronomers to gain a deeper understanding of our own galaxy, how stars spread, and even identify stars that are similar to our own sun for further, more detailed studies.
Data from more than 1.8 billion stars were used to create this map of the entire sky. This picture shows the total density of the stars. Lighter regions indicate denser concentrations of stars, while darker regions correspond to patches of the sky where fewer stars are observed
Cambridge researchers created a 3D map of the Milky Way using data from the latest publication from the Gaia Space Observatory. The map gives astronomers coordinates for each of the nearly two billion stars and their distance from the sun
The latest release from the Gaia Observatory is the most detailed catalog of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy ever published. The last set of published data included details on 1.6 billion stars. This brings this to two billion and more detailed.
It also contains information about our satellite galaxies – the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds and the Bridge of Stars that connect the two collections of star bodies.
Dr. Floor van Leeuwen, who led the 3D mapping project at Cambridge, said this tool will become one of the key backbones of modern astrophysics, providing scientists with new ways to study our galaxy in detail.
This was one of several papers released using an early release of the new data and made available to a selection of researchers before the wider release on December 3rd.
These researchers used the Gaia data to expand the count of neighboring stars, infer the shape of the solar system's orbit around the center of the galaxy, and study structures in two nearby galaxies.
The Gaia satellite, launched in 2013, works at what is known as the Lagrange 2 (L2) point – a point in the sun-earth system with stable gravity – and measures the position and brightness of stars as well as their size and color.
Gaia's main goal is to measure star distances using the parallax method. In this case, astronomers use the observatory to continuously scan the sky and measure the apparent change in the positions of the stars over time that results from the movement of the earth around the sun.
The Gaia data will also enable astronomers to measure the mass of the Milky Way by analyzing the solar system's "gentle" acceleration as it orbits the galaxy, according to the European Space Agency.
Two previous publications contained the positions of 1.6 billion stars. This publication brings the total to almost 2 billion stars, the positions of which are much more precise than in the earlier data.
The data released by Gaia also includes information about our satellite galaxies – the large and small magellanic clouds and the bridge of stars that connect them. Thanks to the data, the researchers found that the large cloud is a spiral galaxy
The latest version of the Gaia data is the space observatory's third release. It was released on December 3, 2020. It contains detailed information on more than 1.8 billion light sources, including their color, brightness and star position
Gaia also tracks the stars' changing brightness and position over time via the line of sight (their so-called proper motion) and, by dividing their light into spectra, measures how fast they are moving toward or away from the sun and assesses their chemical properties Composition.
BIG SURVEY OF GAS CLOUDS HELPS ASTRONOMERS TO STUDY THE MILK TRAIL
A large-scale study of the inner galaxy revealed a variety of structures within the Milky Way.
Scientists from Cardiff University and 50 other institutions around the world have created the new 3D survey of the inner Milky Way.
The cloud map will help astronomers study the galaxy
Called SEDIGISM (Structure, Stimulation and Dynamics of the Inner Galactic Interstellar Medium) – allows astronomers to push the boundaries of what we know about the structure of our own galaxy.
Dr. Ana Duarte Cabral of Cardiff University said it offered a catalog of 10,000 clouds of molecular gas.
In this way, scientists can study exactly how the spiral structure of the galaxy affects the life cycle of clouds, their properties and ultimately the formation of stars in them.
"The most exciting thing about this survey is that it can really help determine the global galactic structure of the Milky Way and provide an amazing 3D view of the inner galaxy," she said.
The catalog was created by measuring the rare isotope of the carbon monoxide molecule 13CO with the extremely sensitive 12-meter telescope Atacama Pathfinder Experiment in Chile.
The sun is believed to accelerate 7 mm per second towards the center of the galaxy over a year while orbiting at a speed of about 200 km per second.
One study using the data looked at the center of the Milky Way to track the various populations of older and younger stars to the very edge of our galaxy – the anticenter.
Computer models predicted that the Milky Way's disk will grow larger over time as new stars are born.
"With the new data we can see the relics of the 10 billion year old disk and thus determine its smaller size compared to the current disk size of the Milky Way," wrote the ESA.
Astronomers will also be able to deconstruct the Milky Way's two largest companion galaxies – the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds – using data from Gaia.
The two galaxies are connected by a bridge of stars believed to be 75,000 light years long, according to researchers studying the new data.
After Gaia's latest data measured the motion of the stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud more accurately than before, it clearly shows that the galaxy has a spiral structure – just like the Milky Way.
The data also revealed a faint stream of stars pulled from the small Magellanic Cloud, suggesting previously invisible structures on the edge of both galaxies.
Dr. Caroline Harper, director of space exploration at the UK's space agency, which provided funding for the research, said Gaia enabled the creation of the most detailed 3-D atlas of billions of stars ever compiled.
"For thousands of years we have been busy noting and describing the stars and their precise positions as they broadened humanity's understanding of our cosmos," said Harper.
"Gaia has been staring at the sky for seven years, mapping the positions and speeds of the stars."
The data will also include "exceptionally accurate" measurements of the 300,000 stars relatively close to the Sun at a distance of 326 light years.
The researchers want to use the information to learn more about the fate of the Milky Way by predicting how the galaxy will change over the next 1.6 million years.
& # 39; Gaia EDR3 is the result of a great effort by everyone involved in the Gaia mission. It is an extraordinarily large data set and I am looking forward to the many discoveries that astronomers from all over the world will make with this resource, ”says Timo Prusti, ESA's Gaia project scientist.
& # 39; And we're not done yet; More great data will follow as Gaia continues to take measurements from orbit. & # 39;
Approximately two billion stars have been studied in detail by the Gaia satellite, including their positions, motion, and color. With this data, Cambridge researchers were able to create a detailed 3D map of the Milky Way
WHAT IS THE EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY'S GAIA PROBE AND WHAT NEEDS TO DEVELOP?
Gaia is on an ambitious mission to draw a three-dimensional map of our galaxy, the Milky Way, revealing its composition, formation and evolution.
Gaia has orbited the Sun nearly a million miles beyond Earth orbit since its launch by the European Space Agency (ESA) in December 2013.
On its journey, the probe discreetly captured images of the Milky Way and identified stars from smaller galaxies that were swallowed up by our own long ago.
Gaia is expected to discover tens of thousands of previously undiscovered objects, including asteroids that could one day threaten Earth, planets orbiting near stars, and exploding supernovae.
Artist's impression of Gaia mapping the stars of the Milky Way. Gaia maps the position of the stars in the Milky Way in a number of ways. It locates the position of the stars, but the probe can also record their movement by scanning each star about 70 times
Astrophysicists also hope to learn more about the distribution of dark matter, the invisible substance that is supposed to hold the observable universe together.
They also plan to test Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity by observing how light is deflected from the sun and its planets.
The satellite's billion-pixel camera, the largest in space, is so powerful that it can measure the diameter of a human hair at a distance of 1,000 km.
This means that nearby stars have been located with unprecedented accuracy.
Gaia maps the position of the stars in the Milky Way in a number of ways.
Gaia's all-sky view of our Milky Way and neighboring galaxies, based on measurements from nearly 1.7 billion stars. The map shows the overall brightness and color of the stars observed by ESA's satellite in each part of the sky between July 2014 and May 2016. Lighter regions indicate denser concentrations of particularly bright stars, while darker regions correspond to spots in the sky where less bright stars are observed. The color representation is obtained by combining the total amount of light with the amount of blue and red light recorded by Gaia in each patch of the sky.
It locates the position of the stars, but the probe can also record their movement by scanning each star about 70 times.
In this way, scientists can calculate the distance between Earth and each star, which is a crucial measure.
In September 2016, ESA published the first series of data collected by Gaia, which contained information on the brightness and position of over a billion stars.
In April 2018, this was expanded to include high-precision measurements of nearly 1.7 billion stars.
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