The Gaia space mission turns 10

10 January 2024

BSC has contributed to Gaia since its inception, providing hours of supercomputing time and programming models

Just ten years after the launch of the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite, the mission has already more than achieved its goal of producing the most accurate and complete map of the Milky Way Galaxy to date. Since its launch, it has accumulated more than 3,400 days of nominal operations and has already made 5 data deliveries to the international community (2016, 2018, 2020, 2022 and 2023).

Gaia is demonstrating its great scientific potential, with more than 10,000 papers published in such diverse and cross-cutting fields of astronomy as galactic astronomy, stellar physics, exoplanets, the solar system, quasars and fundamental physics.

The current Gaia archive, open to the entire scientific community from day one, contains the position and motion of more than 1.8 billion stars in the Milky Way, including more than 10 million variable stars and nearly one million binary systems. The mission has also cataloged 3 million galaxy candidates and 2 million quasar candidates, among others, and has revolutionized knowledge of the solar system with precise tracking of more than 158,000 objects, including near-Earth asteroids, main-belt asteroids, and trans-Neptunian objects.

In addition, the spectroscopic data provided by the mission are unprecedented in the history of astronomy, both in terms of the amount of data published, more than 200 million spectra, and the unique, all-sky calibration process. The astrometric, photometric and spectroscopic precision achieved so far, when only the data obtained in the first 34 months of the mission have been published, has completely transformed the vision we had so far of the origin and evolution of our galaxy. And not only that, it is also transforming the day-to-day research in galactic and stellar astronomy, raising the need to use new methodologies and new tools to advance present and future studies.

Gaia will continue to observe until the first quarter of 2025, when the gas that allows the satellite to maintain uniform rotation and precise pointing will be terminated. Data processing will continue for a few more years, and is expected to increase dramatically in complexity and accuracy. The final mission catalog is not scheduled for release until well into the 2030s, with a sixth delivery in 2025.

BSC contribution

The Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS) has been contributing to Gaia since its inception, contributing millions of hours of MareNostrum supercomputer supercomputing and programming models.

The PyCOMPSs programming model and the dislib machine learning library, developed by the BSC Workflows and Distributed Computing group, have been used in the software developed by the Gaia team to search for new open star clusters. And the BSC user support team has also assisted in data storage and transfer to other processing centers involved in the project.