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Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Giant eye" for studying the Milky Way

Mission Gaia - a unique space observatory of the European Space Agency, which will make the survey of billions of stars, the Milky Way, built-in digital camera with a resolution of 1 billion pixels. This "giant eye" explores the galaxy and makes a detailed map of the distribution of stars in it.

The European Space Agency says Gaia resolution so high that even if you set the camera on the ground, it could capture the finger man on the Moon. Mission planned for launch in 2013 with a spaceport in French Guiana. The scientific community expects this giant telescope will discover hundreds of thousands of new celestial bodies, from planets that rotate in other solar systems, to substellar objects - the so-called "brown dwarfs." This tests the general theory of relativity.

Gaia camera can accurately determine the size, location, distance and trajectory of all astronomical objects that fall within its field of view, spending almost 70 observations for each of them over the five year period. These data will create by 2021 the map of our galaxy in three dimensions, which will provide the opportunity to get more information about the features of the composition, formation and development of the Milky Way.

See also: The telescope "Hubble" helped solve the mystery of the ghost of galaxies

Gaia satellite is scheduled for launch, which is located at a distance of 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. It is assumed that the space telescope can daily discover, among other things, 10 new stars within the Milky Way, 10 stars in other galaxies, and a large number of quasars, the sources of which are active in absorbing matter black holes.

Scientists believe that Gaia will be able to create about 15 000 exoplanets (to date was found about 800). Satellite will be produced daily data transmission, reception which will be used by the station Cebreros (Spain) and the New North (Australia). It is assumed that during the five-year mission, the Earth will be given the amount of data equivalent to 45 thousand discs DVD.

The satellite will be equipped with two telescopes with a focal length of 35 meters and a spectrometer, with which will be measured in the radial velocity of the stars. Gaia is the heart of a digital camera - the largest ever built for a space mission. The chamber consists of 106 separate electronic sensors CCD - advanced versions of chips in standard digital cameras. Each sensor is slightly larger than a credit card, but thinner than a human hair.

Spanish space industry officials and scientists involved in the preparation of the mission, meeting on October 23 in the Madrid office of the European Space Agency, said that in the course of this project is expected to improve knowledge about the peculiarities of the formation of the Milky Way, and open a new chapter in the development of astronomy.

Also on the topic: Curiosity rover on Mars has found unprecedented stone

Now Gaia is being tested, and the summer of 2013 the satellite can already be transported to the launch site in French Guiana. The exact launch date has not yet been determined, but it is assumed that it will be implemented in the autumn of next year. In the mission, the preparation of which takes place within 15 years, part Spanish scientists and industrialists.

Share of Spanish companies in the project has increased from the planned 8.5% to 11.5%. The cost of the contracts is estimated at 38.6 million Euros, according to information provided by Roman Pillar of the Center for Industrial Technology.

Consortium EADS-Astrium-Crisa developed electronic modules to interface with the CCD matrix. Consortium EADS-Casa Espacio - antenna, housing and wiring instrument module. The company Sener - filter and configuration mechanism of the second mirror. The company GMV - one responsible for the test at the center of scientific research. The project also involved Thales Alenia Space, Alter and Rymsa.

According to Cesar Ramos, CEO Tedae (Spanish association of companies for the development of advanced technologies for the defense and aerospace industries), in times of crisis "must believe in the prospects of development of the space industry."

In the preparation of the mission also involved researchers from the universities of Barcelona, ​​La Coruna, Valencia, Vigo and Alicante, as well as the National University of Distance Learning, high-performance computing centers in Barcelona and Catalonia, the fund Galileo Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute of the Canary Islands and the Institute for Space Studies.

Gaia mission cost is estimated at 650 million Euros, "a little more than 1 euro for every citizen of Europe", according to the participants.

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