Our Milky Way is already large as it is. Scientists however only recently have begun to realize that it might be much larger than people have first thought. A mission aimed at mapping out the galaxy has shown that it is much larger with stars that have never been seen before.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has come out with the largest map yet of our Milky Way, made possible through the Gaia space probe. In its map it has recorded the positions of about 1.1 billion stars, as Nature says in its report. Out of those, a large number of it has never been discovered before the star-mapping mission. Around 400 million stars have been seen during that time.
Astronomers have begun to access the data collected from the mission, as Nature reports. ESA's Gaia space observatory has made the project and since September 14 astronomers have been going through its database.
Gisella Clementini, one of the Gaia researchers in Bologna Astronomical Observatory in Italy says that with so many stars found they now see the Milky Way to be much larger than originally thought. Gaia started in December 2013 and has been mapping out the galaxy since that time. It has produced over 40 gigabytes of data daily since it started.
While the data release now is impressive, a second data release is scheduled in late 2017, according to Science Mag. It will have even more accurate positions of the stars once the new data comes out. Also coming out for that release would be the distance and motion of all 1.1 billion stars.
"Please enjoy with us," Gaia project scientist Timo Prusti said at a press conference in Madrid. Scientists worldwide have been given unlimited access to the data that is now out, and will take many months or even years to evaluate all the data.
Gaia's mission though would be only until 2019. ESA has yet to decide whether to extend it to 2024. Scientists are also thinking of using infrared in the future to make a similar undertaking like Gaia. Infrared would be used in order to look through the dust cloud at the Milky Way's center and see what's behind it.
There is more space news at iTechPost, such as the strange red spot seen on Charon.