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Despite the many advancements made in the field of astronomy, astronomers still struggle to get an accurate assessment of the Milky Way Galaxy. Because we are embedded in its disk, it is much more difficult to assess its size, structure, and extent – unlike galaxies located millions (or billions) of light-years away. Luckily, thanks to improved instruments and tireless efforts, progress is being made all the time.
For instance, a team of astronomers recently combined the latest data obtained by the ESA’s Gaia observatory with the infrared and optical observations of other telescopes to start mapping the bar-shaped collection of stars at the center of our Milky Way. This constitutes the first time in history that astronomers have been able to make direct measurements of this barred structure.
Years - Gaia - Spacecraft - Observations - Stars
For almost six years, the Gaia spacecraft has been conducting astrometric observations on over 1 billion stars in the Milky Way, along with other celestial bodies. The unprecedented catalog that has resulted contains data on their brightnesses, positions, distance measurements, and motions across the sky. So far, two data releases have taken place – in 2016 and 2018, respectively – both of which are revolutionizing many fields of astronomy.
As Friedrich Anders, a researcher from the University of Barcelona and the lead author of the study, explained in a recent ESA press release:
Parameters - Gaia - Data - Surface - Temperature
“We looked in particular at two of the stellar parameters contained in the Gaia data: the surface temperature of stars and the ‘extinction’, which is basically a measure of how much dust there is between us and the stars, obscuring their light and making it appear redder. These two parameters are interconnected, but we can estimate them independently by adding extra information obtained by peering through the dust with infrared observations.”
For the sake of their work, the team combined the second Gaia data...
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