A space mission to create the largest, most-accurate, map of the Milky Way in three dimensions will revolutionise our understanding of the galaxy and the universe beyond.
On 19th December 2013, a rocket blasted into the sky from a launch site in French Guiana and travelled 1.5 million km to reach its destination in orbit around the Sun. The spacecraft is called Gaia. Its mission, funded by the European Space Agency and involving scientists from across Europe, is to make the largest, most precise, three-dimensional map of the Milky Way ever attempted.
It will be a census of a billion stars spread across our galaxy. The results, says Professor Gerry Gilmore from Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy and the Principal Investigator for UK involvement in the mission, "will revolutionise our understanding of the cosmos as never before."