Gaia spacecraft launches to map Milky Way

By Ashley Yeager, 10:11 AM December 19, 2013

Gaia is on its way to map the Milky Way.

The ESA spacecraft blasted off at 4:12 a.m. EST on December 19 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It will travel about 1.5 million kilometers beyond Earth before settling into a stable orbit around the sun.

Once there, the spacecraft will spend five years recording the location, brightness and motion of 1 billion stars in the galaxy. Astronomers will use the data to make the most precise, three-dimensional map of the Milky Way to date.

Gaia...

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