News & AnalysisAstronomy

Europe Readies Peerless Star Mapper

Science  13 Dec 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6164, pp. 1305
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6164.1305

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Summary

Victorian astronomers spent countless hours laboriously charting the positions of stars in the sky. Such sky mapping, known as astrometry, went out of fashion for decades, but an about-to-be-launched European satellite called Gaia is set to revive it in grand style. Gaia will map the positions and motions of a billion stars in our galaxy with unprecedented precision. The results should give astronomers front-row seats to the bobbing dance of stars in the galaxy's spiral arm, help them trace how the galaxy has evolved under the influence of dark matter, and yield evidence that the Milky Way has grown by consuming smaller galaxies.