New: Top Ten Gaia Facts!
After today’s first release of data by the Gaia Mission, as a service to the community, for the edification of the public at large, and by popular demand, here is a list of Top Ten Gaia Facts.
- The correct pronunciation of GAIA is as in “gayer”. Please bear this in mind when reading any press articles about the mission.
- The GAIA spacecraft will orbit the Sun at the Second Lagrange Point, the only place in the Solar System where the effects of cuts in the UK science budget can not be felt.
- The data processing challenges posed by GAIA are immense; the billions of astrometric measurements resulting from the mission will be analysed using the world’s biggest Excel Spreadsheet.
- To provide secure backup storage of the complete GAIA data set, the European Space Agency has commandeered the world’s entire stock of 3½ inch floppy disks.
- As well as measuring billions of star positions and velocities, GAIA is expected to discover thousands of new asteroids and the hiding place of Lord Lucan.
- GAIA can measure star positions to an accuracy of a few microarcseconds. That’s the angle subtended by a single pubic hair at a distance of 1000km.
- The precursor to GAIA was a satellite called Hipparcos, which is not how you spell Hipparchus.
- The BBC will be shortly be broadcasting a new 26-part TV series about GAIA. Entitled WOW! Gaia! That’s Soo Amaazing… it will be presented by Britain’s leading expert on astrometry, Professor Brian Cox.
- That’s it.