The European Space Agency, or ESA, recently released detailed information on nearly 2 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy.
The data is being collected in an effort to create the most comprehensive map of our galaxy to date.
The data was collected from ESA’s Gaia space observatory.
Astronomers hope to use the data to better understand how stars are born and die, and how the Milky Way has changed over billions of years.
The data includes new information such as the age, size, temperature and chemical properties of stars. This information can be used, for example, to find out which stars were born in another galaxy and then moved to the Milky Way.
“It’s an incredible gold mine for astronomy,” said Antonella Vallenari. She helped lead a group of 450 scientists and engineers. They spent years transforming the measurements collected by the space observatory into actionable information.
Gaia was also able to find over 100,000 starquakes. The ESA has compared starquakes to large tsunamis that cross the stars. They appear to alter the brightness of stars for a very short period of time. The events allowed scientists to measure the density of stars, the interior spin and indoor temperature, said astrophysicist Conny Aerts.
Scientists have only collected information on about one percent of the stars in the Milky Way. But the Gaia mission already provides enough information for about 1,600 scientific publications a year.
Project scientist Timo Prusti said the large number of stars observed makes it more likely that scientists will make discoveries.
“You have to observe a lot of objects in order to get the needle in the haystack,” he said.
Josef Aschbacher is the head of ESA. He said the new data allows astronomers to understand the forces in the galaxy. For example, it could show how our own solar system moves inside the Milky Way.
“He is enable things that would never be possible without this huge amount of data,” he said.
The currently released Gaia data also includes information on 800,000 binary stars, which are stars orbiting another star. There is also data on several new planets outside the solar system, hundreds of thousands of asteroids in the solar system, and millions of objects beyond our galaxy.
I am Dan Novak.
Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.
words in this story
gold mine — not. something that produces a lot of something that has value
tsunami — not. a huge ocean wave caused by an underwater earthquake
spin — not. rotational movement around a central point
needle in the haystack — expresolution an important thing hidden in a lot of unimportant material
enable — v. to make something possible or capable of being done