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ESA presents the Gaia mission

Thirty UB researchers participate in the mission


GAIA Cam01 2 M1.jpg

Gaia Video
(available in English, Catalan and Spanish)

More information

Gaia mission begins its countdown for next year launch of the satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA). It will map more than a thousand million stars throughout our Galaxy with an unparalleled precision, and will test the theories of its formation and evolution. The main objective of this mission is to create the most accurate galactic census of the Milky Way. More than 400 scientists collaborate in this project, and thirty researchers from the Department of Astronomy and Meteorology of the University of Barcelona develop an important contribution from the conception and design of the instrument to the processing and simulating the mission’s data.

On the 23rd October 2012, ESA presented, from its main office at ESAC (European Space Astronomy Center) in Madrid, the Spanish participation in the mission. UB professor Jordi Torra, PI of the Spanish contribution to the mission, took part in the event. Among participants: Álvaro Giménez, director of Science and Robotic Exploration of ESA and head of ESAC; José Hernández, Gaia Operation and Calibration Engineer (ESA); Pilar Román, in charge of the ESA Scientific Programme from CDTI (MINECO); and César Ramos, general manager of the Spanish Association for Defense, Aeronautics and Space Technologies (TEDAE), comprising the enterprises that take part in the project.

Gaia mission

Gaia will conduct a census of a thousand million stars in our Galaxy, monitoring each of its target stars about 70 times over a five-year period. It will precisely chart their positions, distances, movements, and changes in brightness. The launch of the satellite, currently on testing, will take place at the end of 2013, on a Soyuz-Fregat rocket.

During this period of time, Gaia is expected to discover hundreds of thousands of new celestial objects, such as extra-solar planets (around 15000) and failed stars called brown dwarfs. Within our own Solar System, Gaia should also observe hundreds of thousands of asteroids. Gaia instruments are so precise that, if it was on the Earth, it would be able to measure the thumb of a person who is on the Moon’s surface.

The space catalogue

The ESA Gaia mission will generate more than one petabyte of information, in other words, one million giga, which will have to be processed and analysed in order to get results. For this purpose the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) was created. This Consortium is in charge of processing all the raw data from the satellite during the mission, and once finished it will continue its work for three years in order to turn this information into astrophysical data that will be published in different catalogues. Gaia will allow the knowledge of different parameters (position, speed, distance, physical properties, etc.) for each object, so a map of our Galaxy will be provided.

UB participation in GAIA

A team led by Professor Jordi Torra of the Department of Astronomy and Meteorology (UB) will be in charge of processing and managing the first scientific data of the satellite. From UB also, Dr. Carme Jordi leads a group involved in the treatment of the photometric data; Dr. Xavier Luiri is in charge of the simulations development. The mission simulators prove the validity of the scientific answers and the technical approaches of the industry which build the satellite. The simulators make an intensive use of the Mare Nostrum supercomputer of the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre (BSC); Dr Francesca Figueras leads the Spanish preparations for the scientific exploitation of the data in order to understand the Milky Way. All these researchers are members of the UB Institute of Cosmos Sciences (ICCUB) and the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC).

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