ESA’s billion-star surveyor, Gaia, is set to embark on a five-year mission to map the stars with unprecedented precision.
Gaia is currently scheduled for launch on board the legendary Soyuz rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 09:12 GMT on Thursday 19th December 2013.
Gaia’s main goal is to create a highly accurate three-dimensional map of the Milky Way Galaxy by repeatedly observing more than a billion stars, to determine their precise positions in space and their motions through it.
Gaia will orbit around the Sun, at a distance of 1.5 million km beyond Earth’s orbit. This special location offers a clearer view of the cosmos than an orbit around Earth.
The results of Gaia will be a vast catalogue of celestial objects expected from Gaia’s scientific haul that will not only benefit studies of our own Solar System and Galaxy, but also the fundamental physics that underpins our entire Universe. It will also uncover tens of thousands of previously unseen objects, including asteroids in our Solar System, planets around nearby stars, and exploding stars – supernovas –in other galaxies.