Astronomers from the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) saw the evidence of the Milky Way’s past by looking at stars in the direction of the galaxy’s ‘anticentre’. This is in the exact opposite direction on the sky from the centre of the galaxy.
The results on the anticentre come from one of the four ‘demonstration papers’ released alongside the Gaia data. The others use Gaia data to provide a huge extension to the census of nearby stars, derive the shape of the Solar System’s orbit around the centre of the galaxy, and probe structures in two nearby galaxies to the Milky Way. The papers are designed to highlight the improvements and quality of the newly published data.
What’s new in EDR3?
Gaia EDR3 contains detailed information on more than 1.8 billion sources, detected by the Gaia spacecraft. This represents an increase of more than 100 million sources over the previous data release (Gaia DR2), which was made public in April 2018. Gaia EDR3 also contains colour information for around 1.5 billion sources, an increase of about 200 million sources over Gaia DR2. As well as including more sources, the general accuracy and precision of the measurements has also improved.
“The new Gaia data promise to be a treasure trove for astronomers,” says Jos de Bruijne, ESA’s Gaia Deputy Project Scientist.
At 12:00 CET on 3 December, the data produced by the many scientists and engineers of the Gaia DPAC Consortium become public for anyone to look at and learn from. This is the first of a two-part release; the full Data Release 3 is planned for 2022.
“Gaia EDR3 is the result of a huge effort from everyone involved in the Gaia mission. It’s an extraordinarily rich data set, and I look forward to the many discoveries that astronomers from around the world will make with this resource,” says Timo Prusti, ESA’s Gaia Project Scientist. “And we’re not done yet; more great data will follow as Gaia continues to make measurements from orbit.”