Gaia mission: New Milky Way mapping results ‘unexpected’ | space

Gaia mission: New Milky Way mapping results ‘unexpected’ |  space

The latest release of data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gaia mission reveals rare gravitational lensing, the core of the cluster, and other unexpected scientific discoveries. The findings go beyond what the 2013 expedition was initially designed to discover.

The news was released on Tuesday (10) and is complementary to Gaia’s third data release (DR3), on July 13, 2022. “This product data release will open new horizons in astronomy, from precise orbits of asteroids. In our solar system to the discovery of quasars in the distant universe.” In the current situation Nicholas Walton of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge, UK, is team leader for the Gaia project and a member of the European Space Agency’s Gaia science team.

Gaia is mapping our galaxy and completing the most accurate stellar census ever. Half a million new, faint stars were detected in a large cluster, in addition to 380 potential cosmic lenses and more than 150,000 asteroids within the solar system.

“Save” the stars

DR3 has released data on 1.8 billion stars, but so far Gaia has overlooked some star-packed regions of the sky. For this reason, and to increase studies, the mission chose Omega Centauri, which is the largest spherical cluster that can be seen from Earth.

A view from the Gaia mission of Omega Centauri, a globular cluster located in the constellation Centauri, – Image: ESA/Gaia/DPAC

Globular clusters have bright, star-studded cores that can overwhelm telescopes, so they often miss parts on maps of the universe. So, instead of focusing only on individual stars, as is usual, Gaia has enabled a special mode to map a region around the core of the cluster.

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“At Omega Centauri, we have discovered more than half a million new stars that Gaia has never seen before – in just one cluster!” says lead author of the discovery, Katja Wengrell, of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics in Potsdam (AIP), Germany. .., and a member of the Gaia Cooperative.

The result was a catalog of images of some of the densest star fields in our galaxy, according to David Wyn-Evans, leader of the mission’s optical development team. “This allows us to provide a more complete view of all components of the Milky Way, including the cores of globular clusters, which are some of the oldest structures in our galaxy,” he says.

Quasars that act as a “magnifying glass”

The Gaia mission also identified candidates from the list of potential gravitational Easter quasars. The team identified these stellar remnants that act like giant magnifying glasses, amplifying the brightness of light and projecting multiple images of the distant source across the sky. This configuration allows us to uncover clues about the beginnings of the universe.

The mission also determined 156,823 asteroids and their locations, making the orbits of the objects 20 times more precise. In addition, the team collected 6 million spectra to study faint signals appearing in starlight in the Milky Way.

The next data release, DR4, is not expected until late 2025. It will build on both Gaia DR3 and the latter, improving knowledge about stars, star systems, quasars, galaxies and whatever else comes along.

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