How do you comb through data for one billion stars!?!

We now have a more complete star map of the Milky Way, which still only represents 1% of the stars in our galaxy.

Vocabulary: satellite, sky map, orbit, star

NGSS: ESS1.A- The Universe and its Stars, SEP8- Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information, SEP4: Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Common Core State Standards: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6–8.2 CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6–8.1

Image courtesy of ESA.

Last week, the European Space Agency (ESA) released the most complete sky map to date. Collected by the Gaia satellite, ESA has since released this data to the public. Rachel Feltman, editor of The Washington Post’s Speaking of Science blog, discusses the details.

Audio Excerpt “Mapping the Milky Way” Sept. 16, 2016. (Original Segment)

Print this segment transcript.

Questions for Students

  • What is the goal of the European Space Agency (ESA) Gaia Satellite?
  • According to ESA, the Gaia satellite has collected data on one-billion stars. This represents about one percent of the stars in the Milky Way. How many stars are in the Milky Way? Create an analogy to help people visualize that extremely large number.
  • So far ESA has processed data for two-million of those one-billion stars. What are the potential benefits from opening this massive data collection to other researchers and the public?
Image courtesy of ESA.

Activity Suggestions

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