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ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Mission and Projects ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Mission and Projects


Drawing a three-dimensional map of our galaxy

Main Theme Astrometry
Mission Responsibility -  ESA
Launch Date 2011
End of Mission 2020
Current phase Phase C/D


Gaia is a mission within ESA's scientific programme. Its objective is to chart a three-dimensional map of our galaxy, revealing its composition, formation and evolution. Its launch is scheduled for 2011 with a Soyuz-Fregat; its orbit will be around L2. Gaia was developed directly by ESA, also for the scientific instruments part that is made up of two telescopes with different view fields and a common focal plane, a series of mirrors and more than one hundred CCDs that correspond to almost one billion pixels.  Gaia will continuously scan all the celestial sphere by using the rotation and precession motion of the satellite: each area of the sky will be observed about seventy times during the satellite's operational life. The participation of the European scientific community to the mission foresees the responsibility of reducing the enormous amount of data that will be produced by the mission. This task will be carried out by the Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC), a consortium of European research institutes created by European scientists in response to an ESA Announcement of Opportunity.

Scientific Objectives
Gaia will obtain astrometric data of over a billion stars with a precision two hundred times greater than those of Hipparcos and astrophysics information on the luminosity of various spectral bands that will enable the detailed study of the formation, dynamics, chemistry and evolution of our galaxy. It will also be possible to distinguish extra-solar planets and to observe asteroids, galaxies and quasars.


Italian Contribution
Italian contribution to the DPAC is noteworthy (second only the French, PI-ship) and concerns:
• participation of Italian staff in the management of the DPAC,
• participation in the definition and development of the pipelines of analysis and calibration of the data,
• the presence on Italian territory of one of the six Data Processing Centers (DPC) is foreseen.


International Agreements
The Gaia mission falls within the framework of ESA's Scientific Programme, to which it contributes approximately 13%. A Multilateral Agreement among all the Member States that are participating in the project was signed in February 2008.