map­ping the galaxy

Australian T3 - - OPINION -

There are some­where be­tween 100 and 400 bil­lion stars in our galaxy alone, and at least as many plan­ets, but we’ve only cat­a­logued a tiny frac­tion of them. This is set to change over the next five years as the Euro­pean Space Agency switches on the twin tele­scopes aboard its Gaia space­craft (be­low), which in­cludes a bil­lion-pixel cam­era sen­sor.

The mis­sion, which launched last Septem­ber, will log data on a bil­lion stars in an at­tempt to cre­ate a three

di­men­sional, Google Maps-style plan of the Milky Way. It should re­veal plan­ets we never knew ex­isted and help us track the path of as­ter­oids to mine/fear im­pact from.

With a 5MB/s stream of im­ages head­ing back to Earth, data will hit a petabyte by 2020, which is likely to take as­tronomers decades to an­a­lyse. You might be able to help, though: sim­i­lar projects have called on the pub­lic to help sift through moun­tains of raw data. So,

any vol­un­teers?

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