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Gaia: one billion stars in 3D

Hands-on at the exhibit

  • Take a 3D journey through the Milky Way with Gaia’s star maps
  • Get to grips with parallaxes, the way distances are measured in space
  • Try an app to orbit a star, and see what you can learn from its movements

Find out more

The Gaia satellite is revolutionising how we see our galaxy, with vast moving star maps.

More than a million kilometres above us in space, the Gaia satellite is busy building the most precise 3D map of one billion stars in our galaxy. This exhibit will take you on a journey through the Milky Way, revealing the powerful astronomical techniques used by Gaia, and what they tell us about the dark secrets of the universe.

The European Space Agency’s Gaia mission launched in 2013 to deliver the first ever large-scale survey of the Milky Way in 3D. The satellite’s sophisticated instruments measure the distances to stars and records their movements to an unprecedented level of accuracy. Using these data, it is possible to create a 3D movie of the positions and motions of one billion stars – 1,000 times more than ever before. This powerful astronomical tool is revealing clues about how the Milky Way formed, how it has evolved, and how it will change into the future. It also takes us closer to understanding dark matter, the invisible matter thought to be fundamental to the universe.

Find out more about the project from Gaia in the UK and the European Space Agency.

Download the free app from GooglePlay and take the online quiz to win a Gaia mug.

Presented by: University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, Airbus, Heidelberg University, University College Dublin, Teledyne e2v, University of Warsaw, Mullard Space Science Laboratory UCL, Faulkes Telescope/Cardiff University, University of Leicester, University of Edinburgh, University of St Andrews, Liverpool John Moores University, The Open University, University of Surrey and Institute for Research in Schools.