Connie Aerts, a professor at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Leuven in Belgium and a member of the GIA Collaboration, a group of 400 researchers working on data from the project, told ESA News Release.
Previously, Gaia detected radial oscillations – divergent motions from a common point – that caused some stars to periodically swell and contract while maintaining their spherical shape. The newly discovered oscillations were non-radial.
Gaia is uniquely located approximately 930,000 miles from Earth in the direction opposite to the Sun. The spacecraft carries two telescopes that can survey our galaxy from a location called Lagrange Point 2 or L2. At this point, the spacecraft is able to stay in a fixed location due to the balance of gravitational forces between the Earth and the Sun.
This also means that the spacecraft has no interference from Earth’s light, and can use minimal fuel to stay stationary. The vantage point allows Gaia to have unrestricted views and constantly survey our galaxy.
Much of the latest information about the Milky Way has been revealed by spectroscopic data from Gaia, which resulted from a technique in which starlight is split into its component colors, like a rainbow.
The data collected by Gaia includes new information about Chemical composition, temperatures, mass and age of stars, as well as The speed at which they move toward or away from the Earth. Detailed information has also been released about more than 150,000 asteroids in our solar system and space dust – what lies between the stars.
George Seabrook, senior researcher at Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College London, in a statement issued by the Royal Astronomical Society.
“The more stars we know their chemistry for, the better we can understand our galaxy as a whole. Gaia’s chemical catalog of six million stars is ten times larger than previous Earth’s catalogs, so this is really revolutionary. Gaia data releases tell us where the stars are. and how they move. Now we also know what many of these stars are made of,” Seabrook said.
“Unlike other missions that target specific objects, Gaia is a survey mission,” said Timo Prosti, ESA’s Gaia project scientist.
“This means that while scanning the entire sky with billions of stars many times, Gaia is bound to make discoveries that other more specialized missions will not miss,” Prostie said. “This is one of its strengths, and we can’t wait for the astronomy community to dive into our new data to discover more about our galaxy and its surroundings than we ever imagined.”