The most detailed map of the Milky Way is still being built, but you can check out its current and most complete iteration so far. Gaia is a European Space Agency mission to catalog the massive database of stars that make up our galaxy.
The previous version of data was as of December 2020. It covered information on over 1.8 billion stars. This includes details such as the position, movements, brightness and colors of these stars. The 3rd release of information, which took place yesterday, is based much more on this data.
Not only do we have the star classifications, but Gaia also provides even more data, such as the chemical components, which can be used to discover even more details. These details even allowed Gaia to differentiate between stars not originally formed in the Milky Way, but were absorbed as the galaxy grew.
“Our galaxy is a beautiful melting pot of stars,” explains Alejandra Recio-Blanco of the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur in France and a member of the Gaia collaboration.
“This diversity is extremely important, because it tells us the history of our galaxy’s formation. It reveals the processes of migration within our galaxy and accretion of outer galaxies. It also clearly shows that our Sun, and we, all belong to an ever-changing system formed thanks to the assemblage of stars and gases from different sources.”
The Gaia data looks almost like a magnified image of the Milky Way, but the positions of stars, planets, asteroids and even dust in the system are mapped. It can also recognize and distinguish binary stars, of which around 813,000 are observed in our galaxy. It is also seen more planets than there will be in Starfield (opens in new tab). The information and sensors are good enough to figure out the changes that have taken place inside a star by checking for variations in brightness.
Gaia is also collecting data it wasn’t even designed for. Thanks to the power of these scans, he even detected and cataloged starquakes, which are movements on the surface of a star. Thousands of stars have had their starquakes observed, which can teach us even more about flaming balls of gas and their inner workings.
you can freely browse Gaia mission data on the official website, but it’s a pretty scary thing. All of this is dense data, rather than than pretty pictures from space and it’s incredibly deep. While it can provide tons of information in the right hands, as well as marveling at its existence, it’s all a little beyond me. There are some tutorials to helpfor the most determined who seek to unravel the mysteries of our galaxy.