The Large Magellanic Cloud

This is not a photograph. It’s a map of radiation detected by ESA’s Gaia spacecraft while observing the Large Magellanic Cloud. The color of each pixel was derived from data taken through different filters.

The image is dominated by the brightest, most massive stars. They outshine their fainter, lower-mass counterparts. The central bar of the LMC is readily visible, as are individual regions of star formation such as 30 Doradus, visible just above the center of the galaxy.

Image Credit: ESA

Coming to a Solar System Near You

In about 1,350,000 years, the star Gliese 710 will pass near our Sun. It will come inside of our Solar System and enter the Oort Cloud. This animation shows the stars motion against the background of others as it is expected to be seen from the inner Solar System during the period of 1,100,000 to 1,500,000 years from now. The star position forecasting is based on data from ESA’s Gaia satellite. Gliese 710 is an orange dwarf that is somewhat smaller and somewhat dimmer than the Sun. It is currently estimated that the star at its closest approach will probably be about as bright in the Earth’s night sky as the planet Mars at its closest.

Video Credit: ESA

Speeding Stars

This video was constructed using data derived from observations by ESA’s Gaia satellite. It starts with the stars shown in their positions as of a bit more than a million years ago, tracks the changes in their positions up to the present day, and ends with a view of the sky as seen by Gaia between 2014 and 2015. The trajectories highlighted in yellow show six unusual stars that are moving through the Milky Way at hypervelocities of several hundred km/s. Most likely, these stars’ high speeds are the results of past interactions with the supermassive black hole that sits at the center of the galaxy. Analysis of their paths provides information about the gravitational field of the Milky Way from the center to its outskirts.

One of the six stars (numbered 1) is moving at over 500 km/s, which is above escape velocity for the galaxy. It will eventual fly off into intergalactic space. The other five stars are somewhat slower and are still bound to the galaxy.

Video Credit: ESA

Two Million Stars for Five Million Years

Here is ESA’s explanation of this video—This video reveals the changing face of our Galaxy, tracing the motion of two million stars five million years into the future using data from the Tycho-Gaia Astrometric Solution, one of the products of the first Gaia data release. This provides a preview of the stellar motions that will be revealed in Gaia’s future data releases, which will enable scientists to investigate the formation history of our Galaxy.

The stars are plotted in Galactic coordinates and using a rectangular projection: in this, the plane of the Milky Way stands out as the horizontal band with greater density of stars.

The video starts from the positions of stars as measured by Gaia between 2014 and 2015, and shows how these positions are expected to evolve. The frames in the video are separated by 750 years, and the overall sequence covers five million years. The stripes visible in the early frames reflect the way Gaia scans the sky and the preliminary nature of the first data release; these artefacts are gradually washed out in the video as stars move across the sky.

The shape of the Orion constellation can be spotted towards the right edge of the frame, just below the Galactic Plane, at the beginning of the video. As the sequence proceeds, the familiar shape of this constellation (and others) evolves into a new pattern. Two stellar clusters – groups of stars that were born together and consequently move together – can be seen towards the left edge of the frame: these are the alpha Persei (Per OB3) and Pleiades open clusters.

Video Credit: ESA

Here Comes the Sun

ESA’s Gaia mission is mapping the nearby stars in the galaxy. This video is based on over 600,000 stars mapped so far, but Gaia is on track to measure the parallax distances to over one billion stars during five-year mission. The video zooms from outside the Milky Way into the region mapped by Gaia. A few notable stars are labelled with their common names, and others stars are labelled with numbers from Gaia‘s catalog. Eventually, the point of view approaches our home star Sol (the Sun), then resolves the reflective glow of the Earth.

Video Credit: ESA

A Journey to the Hyades

This virtual journey from our Solar System to the Hyades star cluster is based on data from ESA’s Gaia satellite. The journey moves away from the Sun and travel toward and around the Hyades star cluster. It’s the closest open cluster to the Solar System, some 150 light-years away.

The 3D positions of the stars shown in the animation are drawn using information from Gaia’s first year of observations. This new dataset contains positions on the sky, distances, and proper motions of over two million stars. It is twice as precise and contains almost 20 times as many stars as the previous reference for astrometry, the Hipparcos Catalogue.

The animation zooms out to show the full extent size of the stars contained in the dataset, all relatively near to the Sun, in the overall context of our Milky Way galaxy. The final Gaia catalogue will contain the most detailed 3D map ever made of the Galaxy, charting a billion stars—only about 1% of the Milky Way—to unprecedented accuracy.

Video Credit: ESA