Aerospace & Defence

Lund University plays a key role in mapping the Milky Way

19th September 2016
Enaie Azambuja

The European Space Agency’s satellite Gaia is now delivering its first results after having travelled around the sun for more than two years. The goal is to draw up a whole new map of the Milky Way, showing where the billion different stars are located and how they move. Lennart Lindegren, Professor of Astronomy at the Faculty of Science at Lund University in Sweden, helped launch the Gaia project 23 years ago.

The Gaia satellite will gather material and clues about stars, exoplanets, asteroids and dark matter for another few years. To astronomers and space researchers it will be a big day when the first data on approximately two million stars will be published.

The astronomers at Lund University, with Lennart Lindegren leading the way, will play a key role when the images from the satellite are to be processed.

“It is here at Lund University that we will be putting the pieces together to create a map of the sky”, says Lennart Lindegren and continues:

“This will be the highlight of 23 years worth of work. But a lot remains to be done before the results are in place.”

The data collected and transmitted by Gaia include the distance between each star and the Earth, as well as the stars’ location and movement. The material occasionally provides clues to the question of whether life exists somewhere else in space.

“Gaia will discover new planets, and provide us with a better understanding of how planet systems are formed and the chances of finding life on other planets”, says Lennart Lindegren.

One of telescope mirrors are set in place in Gaia. Photo: EADS Astrium SAS, France

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