Summary
Gaia is a space observatory of the European Space Agency (ESA), launched in 2013 and expected to operate until 2025. The spacecraft is designed for astrometry: measuring the positions, distances and motions of stars with unprecedented precision, and the positions of exoplanets by measuring attributes about the stars they orbit such as their apparent magnitude and color. The mission aims to construct by far the largest and most precise 3D space catalog ever made, totalling approximately 1 billion astronomical objects, mainly stars, but also planets, comets, asteroids and quasars, among others. To study the precise position and motion of its target objects, the spacecraft monitored each of them about 70 times over the five years of the nominal mission (2014–2019), and continues to do so during its extension. The spacecraft has enough micro-propulsion fuel to operate until the second quarter of 2025. As its detectors are not degrading as fast as initially expected, the mission can be further extended. Gaia targets objects brighter than magnitude 20 in a broad photometric band that covers the extended visual range between near-UV and near infrared; such objects represent approximately 1% of the Milky Way population. Additionally, Gaia is expected to detect thousands to tens of thousands of Jupiter-sized exoplanets beyond the Solar System by using the astrometry method, 500,000 quasars outside this galaxy and tens of thousands of known and new asteroids and comets within the Solar System. The Gaia mission continues to create a precise three-dimensional map of astronomical objects throughout the Milky Way and map their motions, which encode the origin and subsequent evolution of the Milky Way. The spectrophotometric measurements provide detailed physical properties of all stars observed, characterizing their luminosity, effective temperature, gravity and elemental composition. This massive stellar census is providing the basic observational data to analyze a wide range of important questions related to the origin, structure and evolutionary history of the Milky Way galaxy.
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