ESA release Gaia test image

The space scope will survey one billion stars in our Galaxy


Credit: ESA/DPAC/Airbus DS

A Gaia test image of the young star cluster NGC1818 in the Large Magellanic Cloud

ESA has released one of the first test images from the Gaia space telescope. The billion-star surveyor, launched on 19 December 2013, is only now beginning to focus its instruments.

The test image shows a star cluster, NGC 1818, located in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

Despite the massive number of stars due to be imaged and analysed by Gaia, only small, sample images (cut-outs) will be sent back to Earth for analysis.

The majority of the space scope’s scientific work will not involve sending large images back to Earth. Instead, Gaia will measure the physical properties of the stars it surveys, including brightness, temperature and chemical composition.

This initial test image will help the ESA team to begin to fine tune Gaia’s instruments in preparation for the massive surveys yet to take place.

The spacecraft’s eventual goal is to create the most accurate map yet of the Milky Way.

Although the team is making good progress, there is still a great deal of work to be done to fully understand the behavior and performance of Gaia’s instruments.


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