Astronomers produce most detailed 3D map yet of the Milky Way

Access to the comments Comments
By Louise Miner
The journey of 1.6 million stars across the sky - GAIA, ESA
The journey of 1.6 million stars across the sky - GAIA, ESA   -   Copyright  European Space Agency - GAIA Early Data Release

Astronomers have unveiled the most detailed 3D map of the Milky Way yet which could shed fresh light on the galaxy and the universe beyond.

The European Space Agency's Gaia observatory has been looking at the universe since 2013.

The map contains enough new detail that astronomers can now measure the acceleration of the solar system and calculate the mass of the galaxy.

The information will fill in some unknown gaps in our knowledge of what's up in space.

"The Gaia spacecraft is circling around the sky continuously and it is doing many, many passes over the sky and it's measuring the position and the brightness of the stars and with this, it creates extremely accurate reference frame which is basically transmitted down to Earth through radio signals and we put them together on the computer," Professor Gunther Hasinger, Director of Science at the European Space Agency in Spain, told Euronews.

"What we are learning is basically the history of our Milky Way," he added. 

"We are drilling back into the history of time, more or else like the archeologists are drilling but many many billions of years - before even the sun was born, so we can say something about the fate of the Milky Way when it was very young and also can predict what will happen in the future".

To listen to the full interview click on the media player above.