Gaia Comes into Focus

February 06, 2014

ESA has announced that the telescopes of the survey satellite Gaia are now being brought into focus. Gaia was launched on December 2013 and is now orbiting around the Lagrange point L2, 1.5 million kilometres from Earth.

Gaia test image of the young star cluster NGC1818 in the Large Magellanic cloud, covering roughly 1/60 of the size of the full Moon in the sky. The distortion of the stars is a side-effect of Gaia's particular optical system, which is optimized for the precise comparison measurements necessary for the Gaia survey (using rectangular mirrors and elongated pixels).

The test image published by ESA was taken as part of the commissioning phase. It shows NGC1818, a young star cluster in the Large Magellanic Cloud, and covers less than 1% of Gaia's full field of view. The image was acquired in a test mode, and will be one of the few proper images Gaia will obtain. Gaia's main mission, which will start in a few months, will involve detailed measurements of the position of about a billion stars in the sky over a five-year period. Gaia will also measure key physical properties of each star, including its brightness, temperature and chemical composition.

The Gaia group at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, led by Coryn Bailer-Jones, plays a key role in the Gaia data processing consortium's group tasked with determining astrophysical parameters by use specially-written of classification software.

Further information:

Gaia pages at ESA


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