A cutting edge, billion-pixel camera will be launched into space on the world-famous Gaia telescope in an effort to learn more about the origin and evolution of the universe.
Due to lift off from French Guyana on Thursday morning, Gaia is charged with mapping the Milky Way in closer detail than ever before.
Project scientist, Timo Prusti, explained the significance of the mission.
“For every professional astronomer, there is no need to explain how fundamental Gaia is. Everyone knows that when you get the distances to stars, it’s the basis of all the rest of astronomy,” he said. “And everyone is looking forward to getting this data in [their] hands.”
Designed and built for the European Space Agency, Gaia is so sensitive that it can detect the width of a single human hair from a distance of a thousand kilometres.
The mission’s primary aim is to build a three-dimensional map of our galaxy.
It is also expected to discover up to ten thousand planets beyond our Solar System, as well as hundreds of thousands of asteroids and comets within it.
In addition, the telescope may reveal tens of thousands of failed stars and supernovas.