Galactic mapping satellite Gaia spotted by ground-based Very Large Telescope

gaia satellite vlt observation pinpointing to map the milky way
This image, a composite of several observations captured by ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST), shows the space observatory Gaia as a faint trail of dots across the lower half of the star-filled field of view. These observations were taken as part of an ongoing collaborative effort to measure Gaia’s orbit and improve the accuracy of its unprecedented star map. ESO

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gaia satellite was launched in 2013 to survey the stars in our galaxy in order to create the most precise 3D map of the Milky Way to date. But now the observer has become the observee, as the satellite is captured in this image from the European Southern Observatory (ESO)’s Very Large Telescope (VLT).

Gaia’s second map of the galaxy was released last year, but the satellite continues to collect data for future maps. In order to get absolute accuracy of these readings, the scientists at ESO needed to pinpoint the exact location of Gaia. They did so using the VLT’s Survey Telescope, the largest survey telescope currently observing the stars in the visible light range.

“Gaia observations require a special observing procedure,” Monika Petr-Gotzens, coordinator of ESO’s observations of Gaia, explained in a statement. “The spacecraft is what we call a ‘moving target,’ as it is moving quickly relative to background stars — tracking Gaia is quite the challenge!”

To meet this challenge, astronomers used Gaia’s own measurements of the stars to calibrate its position, which could then be fed to the VLT so the telescope could pick out the spec of light representing the satellite among the stars.

This operation required cooperation between several different research groups and locations. “The VST is the perfect tool for picking out the motion of Gaia,” Ferdinando Patat, head of the ESO’s Observing Programmes Office, explained in the same statement. “Using one of ESO’s first-rate ground-based facilities to bolster cutting-edge space observations is a fine example of scientific cooperation.”

Now that Gaia’s position has been confirmed, its observations of distant stars for the next galactic map can be more accurate. Timo Prusti, Gaia project scientist at ESA, highlighted the important of agencies working together: “This is an exciting ground-space collaboration, using one of ESO’s world-class telescopes to anchor the trailblazing observations of ESA’s billion star surveyor.”

Emerging Tech

Three rare exocomets spotted in orbit around a nearby star

Scientists have spotted three exocomets, or comets outside of our Solar System, in orbit around a bright young star called Beta Pictoris in the constellation of Pictor using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite (TESS).
Emerging Tech

SpaceX joins internet-from-space race with launch of 60 Starlink satellites

SpaceX has launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying its first batch of Starlink satellites for its ambitious internet-from-space project. The payload, SpaceX's heaviest to date, successfully deployed an hour after liftoff.
Emerging Tech

Watch live as SpaceX tries, for the third time, to launch 60 Starlink satellites

SpaceX is having another go at launching the first 60 satellites for its ultra-ambitious Starlink internet constellation. Here's how you can tune in live to watch it all go down today.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Huawei updates, Starlink launch, and Pac-Man’s birthday

On this episode of DT Live, we discuss the ongoing Huawei saga, Amazon’s social games for workers, Ford's partnership with a robotics company, the Starlink satellite launch, Pac-Man’s birthday, and more.
Emerging Tech

Las Vegas officials bet big on Elon Musk’s Boring Company

Elon Musk’s Boring Company has just been awarded a $48.6 million contract by Las Vegas to build a high-speed transportation system beneath the city’s enormous convention center, and it could be ready by early 2020.
Emerging Tech

Airbus shows off the futuristic interior of its autonomous flying taxi

Airbus has given us the first look inside its single-seat flying taxi. The absence of controls in the Vahana electric aircraft is a reflection of its autonomous capabilities, so you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Emerging Tech

I mainlined a bag of liquid vitamins — for science

Healthy people are signing up for treatments that are typically saved for patients stuck in hospital beds. Known as nutrient IV therapy, the treatment entails pumping vitamins, minerals, and fluids directly into the bloodstream, bypassing…
Emerging Tech

Future smart clothes promise to keep you the perfect temperature at all times

Regulating your body temperature can sometimes be tough. Engineers from UC San Diego have developed heating and cooling wearable tech which could be embedded into future smart clothing.
Emerging Tech

Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 aborts marker drop mission

The Hayabusa 2 spacecraft's mission to drop a reflective marker on the surface of asteroid Ryugu has been aborted. The Japanese team was considering a second touchdown on the asteroid to collect more materials, but this now seems unlikely.
Emerging Tech

Whose name should we etch on the Mars 2020 rover? NASA wants a vote

Dream of making it to Mars? NASA has opened up a new public outreach program to let people send their names to the Red Planet, as an engraving on a silicon chip launched with the Mars 2020 rover.
Emerging Tech

What would it take to build a Matrix-level simulation of reality?

What would it take, technologically speaking, to build a real version of the Matrix? We definitely don't have the technical abilities to do that now, but we're rapidly approaching the point that we will. In this article, MIT computer…
Emerging Tech

The best solar chargers for your phone, tablet, and other battery-powered gear

Looking for a gizmo that can help you charge your phone while on the go? Here, we've outlined the best solar chargers on the market, whether you're looking to charge your phone once, twice, or three times over.
Emerging Tech

This plane-pulling robo-dog makes Boston Dynamics’ Spot look scrawny

A robot dog created by researchers at Italy’s Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia showed off its impressive ability to pull a three-ton airplane down a runway. Check it out in action.
Emerging Tech

Scientists discover unexpected underwater volcano off the coast of Africa

Geologists first noticed something unusual in the Indian Ocean in November last year, when they detected a massive seismic event. Now further research has revealed that the source of the seismic activity is an enormous underwater volcano.