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TMCNet:  Gaia, the billion star surveyor, ready for launch

[December 04, 2013]

Gaia, the billion star surveyor, ready for launch

(M2 PressWIRE Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Gaia will make the largest, most precise three-dimensional map of our Galaxy by surveying more than a billion stars.

Story Summary: Friday 19th December 2013, Europe's Spaceport, Kourou, French Guiana ESA's billion-star surveyor, Gaia, is set to embark on a five-year mission to map the stars with unprecedented precision. It is currently scheduled for launch on board of a Soyuz-STB/Fregat-MT at 09:12 GMT on Thursday 19th December 2013 from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Gaia's main goal is to create a highly accurate three-dimensional map of the Milky Way Galaxy by repeatedly observing more than a billion stars, to determine their precise positions in space and their motions through it.

Gaia will orbit around the Sun, at a distance of 1.5 million km beyond Earth's orbit. This special location offers a clearer view of the cosmos than an orbit around Earth, which would result in the spacecraft passing in and out of Earth's shadow and causing it to heat up and cool down, distorting its view. As it moves around the Sun, Gaia will measure the position of each star, allowing it to determine the distance through a perspective effect known as parallax.

Its two telescopes are equipped with the largest digital camera ever to be flown into space, with nearly a billion pixels. This will allow Gaia to measure the position of the stars to an accuracy of 7-300 microarcseconds. This is comparable to measuring the diameter of a human hair at a distance of 1000 km.

Other measurements will assess the vital physical properties of each star, including its temperature, luminosity and composition.

The resulting census will allow astronomers to determine the origin and evolution of our own Galaxy and to reconstruct its history.

The vast catalogue of celestial objects expected from Gaia's scientific haul will not only benefit studies of our own Solar System and Galaxy, but also the fundamental physics that underpins our entire Universe. It will also uncover tens of thousands of previously unseen objects, including asteroids in our Solar System, planets around nearby stars, and exploding stars - supernovas -in other galaxies. Gaia will be able to probe the distribution of dark matter and will also test Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity by watching how light is deflected by the Sun and its planets.

After launch, Gaia will unfold a 'skirt' just over 10 m in diameter. This will act as both a sunshade to permanently shade the telescopes and allow their temperatures to drop to below -100C, and as a power generator for the spacecraft. The underside of the shield is partially covered with solar panels and will always be facing the Sun, generating electricity to operate the spacecraft and its instruments.

Gaia is a truly European Mission. With more than 50 industrial companies across Europe involved in building the spacecraft and its instruments, Gaia will put Europe at the forefront of precision astronomy.

The spacecraft will be controlled from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC, Darmstadt, Germany) using the two ground stations Cebreros (Spain) and New Norcia (Australia). Science operations will be conducted from the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC, Villafranca, Spain).

The Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) will process the raw data to be published in the largest stellar catalogue ever made.

BROADCAST OPPORTUNITIES DURING LAUNCH SATELLITE MEDIA TOUR Immediately after launch, ESA's spokespeople and scientists will be available for interview via satellite from Kourou, French Guiana. European Broadcasters interested in booking a satellite interview please contact: Orlegi Communications mediarelations@orlegi.co.uk Tel: +44 1550 777917 or +44 207 193 2564 FOOTAGE AVAILABILITY Broadcast quality footage will be available to download from: http://www.esa.int/esatv/Television More extensive background footage is also available directly from the ESA Video Archive Please contact Hugo Auffret +39 06 941 80877 spaceinvideos@esa.int ESA TV COVERAGE ESA TV will be providing extensive coverage of the Gaia mission.

Several stories featuring the mission and its preparation are being released on ESA TV's FTP server and via satellite on the Europe by Satellite (EbS) service, also available on EBU Worldfeed and Worldlink Wed 12/12 - Gaia VNR - EBU + EbS + FTP Fri 13/12 - Gaia technology - EbS + FTP Mon 16/12 - Gaia Science - EbS + FTP Tue 17/12 - Gaia History Hipparcos - EbS + FTP Wed 18/12 - Gaia Latest from Kourou - EBU + FTP Thu 19/12 - Gaia launch on Soyuz/ KRU - AE / ESA TV On 19th December 2013 the launch will be transmitted live via satellite from Kourou, in cooperation with Arianespace.

All details will be found on ESA TV's site: http://www.esa.int/esatv/Television For further information contact ESA TV team: Dominique Detain + 33 685 114 681 Chris Courtenay Taylor + 44 7774 275 951 Ingrid Van De Vyver +32 495 20 9541 EUROPEAN LAUNCH EVENT Gaia will be controlled from ESOC- ESA's mission control centre. ESOC will host a launch event for media. The event will be centred on the video transmission of the launch, with experts available for complementary information.

For further information, please contact: ESA Media Relations Office, Tel: +33(0)1 53 69 72 99/71 58 media@esa.int Germany ESOC Phone : + 49 61 51 90 26 96 Fax : +49 61 51 90 26 91 esoc.communication@esa.int ((M2 Communications disclaims all liability for information provided within M2 PressWIRE. Data supplied by named party/parties. Further information on M2 PressWIRE can be obtained at http://www.presswire.com on the world wide web. Inquiries to info@m2.com)).

(c) 2013 M2 COMMUNICATIONS

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