mapping the galaxy
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,