Cafe Scientifique-The European Space Agency’s Gaia mission
19th December 2017
Gaia is an ambitious mission by the European Space Agency to make a three-dimensional map of our Galaxy, the Milky Way. Gaia is measuring the positions and motions of over a billion stars with unprecedented (and almost unbelievable) accuracy, to the extent that it is necessary to account for the bending of light by the planets in the solar system in order get usable answers. Measurements from Gaia are so accurate that they give accurate distances to stars in nearby galaxies, something that has never been possible before. Data from Gaia are revolutionising astronomy as they allow us to understand the composition, formation and evolution of the Galaxy in exquisite detail.
Dr Peter Allan is a space scientist and astronomer working at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL). He did a PhD at Manchester University on the subject of black hole models of quasars and subsequently held research positions in astronomy at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and at Kitt Peak National Observatory in the USA. He has worked at RAL since 1990 on astronomical software systems, Earth observation data systems, satellite control systems and international standards for space data systems.