The Gaia spacecraft will help create a precise 3D map of more than 1 billion stars and will spot planets outside our solar system. To be launched in 2013, the ESA probe will spend five years measuring the position and velocity of these stars. The huge stellar census will allow astronomers to tackle an enormous range of questions related to the origin, structure, and evolutionary history of the galaxy.
It is expected to discover hundreds of thousands of new celestial objects, such as extra-solar planets and failed stars called brown dwarfs. Within our own solar system, Gaia should also identify tens of thousands of asteroids. Gaia will be equipped with one of the most sensitive telescopes yet made and its measurement accuracy is so great that if it were on the moon it could measure the thumbnail of a person on the earth.
July 13, 2012 11:43 AM PDT
Photo by: Nick Heath/TechRepublic
| Caption by: Nick Heath
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