Europe readies satellite that will map 1 billion stars, hunt for new planets - InfoNews

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Europe readies satellite that will map 1 billion stars, hunt for new planets

This photo provided by ESA (European Space Agency) shows the European rocket Ariane taking off from the Kourou space base, French Guiana, Thursday Dec. 19, 2013. The European Space Agency successfully launched a satellite, named Gaia, Thursday in a bid to produce the most accurate three-dimensional map of our part of the Milky Way, and provide an insight into the evolution of the galaxy. (AP Photo/JM Guillon, ESA)
December 19, 2013 - 12:58 AM

BERLIN - The European Space Agency is preparing to launch a satellite that will produce the most accurate three-dimensional map of our part of the Milky Way.

The agency says its Gaia satellite due to launch Thursday from French Guiana at 6:12 a.m. (0912 GMT; 4:12 a.m. EST) will survey some 1 billion stars in our galactic neighbourhood.

Even that is just a small fraction of the stars in the Milky Way.

Gaia will also use its 1,000-megapixel camera to hunt for planets, asteroids and comets beyond our Solar System.

ESA says scientists are hoping the satellite's sensitive instruments can be used to test a key part of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity that predicts "dips" and "warps" in space caused by the gravity of stars and planets.

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http://www.esa.int/gaia

News from © The Associated Press, 2013
The Associated Press

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