Astrium Completes Final Preparations for ESA’s Gaia Telescope

CCD Galaxy Astronomy Telescope

ESA’s Gaia Telescope. Photo: Astrium

[Via Satellite 12-11-13] Astrium has finalized its preparation of Gaia in Kourou, French Guiana. The telescope, which will be Europe’s most advanced space observatory, is scheduled for launch on Dec. 19 aboard the Soyuz spacecraft. Gaia will be located at Lagrange point L2, a position of gravitational balance 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.

Built for the European Space Agency (ESA), Gaia will produce a highly accurate 3-D map of our galaxy, the Milky Way, and discover and map objects far beyond its boundaries. Its goal is to improve our understanding of the origins and evolution of the Solar System. The Gaia mission is also expected to discover hundreds of thousands of unknown celestial objects, including extra-solar planets and failed stars, known as brown dwarfs. Within our solar system, Gaia will be able to identify tens of thousands of additional asteroids.

The precision of Gaia is such that it would be capable of picking out a strand of hair from a distance of 700 kilometers, the equivalent of the altitude of Earth observation satellites.

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