The oldest branch of astronomy, named astrometry, is the study of the geometrical relationship between objects in the sky and their apparent and true motions. The real pioneer of astrometry was the Greek astronomer Hipparchus, who calculated the relative positions of about 1000 stars, only using observations with the naked eye. Since then, gigantic progress has been made and on 14 September 2016 the story of astrometry passed another milestone.
On 14 September 2016 ESA (European Space Agency) published the first data release of GAIA, the biggest archive of celestial objects of our galaxy, the Milky Way, ever collected. The first release contains more than 1 billon stars. The catalogue will be further tuned before the final release to increase the precision and reduce uncertainties. In the final stage, the archive will contain more than 2 billion objects.
A map of star density in the Milky Way
Gaia Spacecraft © Gaia/ESA/DPAC
This publication of the GAIA data was ground-breaking for astrometry as it lead to measurements of several properties of objects with unprecedented precision, such as photometry (measuring the brightness) and spectroscopy (analysing the light at different wavelengths). The GAIA telescope is able to record an impressive number of more than 500 million astrometric measurements per day. The event has been broadcast by ESA and has caught the attention of newspapers such as The Guardian, who featured an article on the astronomical map.
The project GENIUS, funded by FP7 and managed by the REA Unit B1, plays a vital role in the GAIA data exploitation. It will offer the gigantic raw GAIA database to the scientific community in a comprehensible and ordered archive, with special tools that allow a thorough investigation of the celestial puzzle. The project is coordinated by the University of Barcelona and in October 2015 passed its half-life. The total budget allocated to GENIUS is more than €3 million, with the EU contribution of about €2.5 million.
GENIUS scientists are active contributors to the GAIA success and the project is a perfect example of how ESA and the EC are collaborating to strengthen the foundations of Space Science and Technology.
If you would like to know more about GAIA then you can find more details at the following links:
You can also follow the project on twitter: https://twitter.com/gaiaverse