This video reveals the changing face of our Galaxy, tracing the motion of two million stars five million years into the future using data from the Tycho-Gaia Astrometric Solution, one of the products of the first Gaia data release. This provides a preview of the stellar motions that will be revealed in Gaia’s future data releases, which will enable scientists to investigate the formation history of our Galaxy.
The stars are plotted in Galactic coordinates and using a rectangular projection: in this, the plane of the Milky Way stands out as the horizontal band with greater density of stars.
The video starts from the positions of stars as measured by Gaia between 2014 and 2015, and shows how these positions are expected to evolve. The frames in the video are separated by 750 years, and the overall sequence covers five million years. The stripes visible in the early frames reflect the way Gaia scans the sky and the preliminary nature of the first data release; these artefacts are gradually washed out in the video as stars move across the sky.
The shape of the Orion constellation can be spotted towards the right edge of the frame, just below the Galactic Plane, at the beginning of the video. As the sequence proceeds, the familiar shape of this constellation (and others) evolves into a new pattern. Two stellar clusters – groups of stars that were born together and consequently move together – can be seen towards the left edge of the frame: these are the alpha Persei (Per OB3) and Pleiades open clusters.
More about this video here: Two million stars on the move