the first 3-D Color Map of the Milky Way
Stereoscopic photography continues to be of vital importance in the space sciences:
"BERLIN — Nearly 1.7 billion stars have been plotted in unprecedented detail with today's (April 25) highly anticipated release of data from the European Space Agency's Gaia spacecraft.
The new 3D map, which was unveiled here at the ILA Berlin Air Show, offers the best-ever look at the Milky Way — now in color — and promises to unleash hundreds of scientific discoveries about our galactic home and beyond.
"The first time I saw this I was at home, I turned off all the lights, and I just sat there in the dark for a while staring at this image because it's really so beautiful," Anthony Brown, an astronomer at Leiden University in the Netherlands, said during a press conference. Brown, who is chair of the consortium of 450 scientists and software engineers who are processing and validating the Gaia data, encouraged others to download the map and "go to a dark place and admire it."
The $1 billion (750 million euros) Gaia spacecraft launched in 2013 for a five-year mission to map the night sky with unmatched accuracy. The spacecraft is perched far beyond the moon's orbit, in the Lagrange-2, or L2, point, a gravitationally stable spot about 1 million miles (1.5 kilometers) away from Earth. Unlike space telescopes such as Hubble that orbit the Earth, Gaia can scan the cosmos without Earth blocking a large chunk of its view. As it rotates in space, Gaia measures about 100,000 stars each minute and covers the whole sky in about two months. Each star is measured 70 times on average.
"Over the lifetime of five years of Gaia, we will actually get 29 independent measurements of whole sky," Günther Hasinger, the European Space Agency's (ESA) director of science, said at the ILA.
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