University of Barcelona


Organization: ESA
Launch date: 19-12-2013
Mission length: 5+1 years
Type of orbit: Lissajous orbit around Sun–Earth L2
Wavelength: Optical
Diameter: ~11m
Website: Gaia (ESA), ICCUB GAIA group

Gaia is a satellite by the European Space Agency (ESA) designed for astrometry and launched on 2013. The main goal of the Gaia mission is to make the largest, most precise three-dimensional map of our Galaxy by surveying an unprecedented one per cent of its population of 100 billion stars. After more than two years of Gaia operations, with data being received, stored and treated by a daily complex processing task, the Gaia Data Processing and Analyzing Consortium (DPAC) is ready for the First Release of its Catalogue. The archive system is gearing up to handle this first public data (Sep 2016).

During the mapping, Gaia detects and very accurately measures the motion of each star in its orbit around the centre of the Galaxy. Much of this motion was imparted upon each star during its birth and studying it allows astronomers to peer back in time, to when the Galaxy was first forming. By constructing a detailed map of the stars, Gaia is offering us a crucial tool to study the formation of our Galaxy, the Milky Way. But, while surveying the sky, Gaia is bound to make many other discoveries. Gaia is observing each of its one billion sources several times, resulting in a record of the brightness and position of each source over time. This will lead to the discovery of planets around other stars, asteroids in our Solar System, icy bodies in the outer Solar System, brown dwarfs, and far-distant supernovae and quasars. The list of Gaia's potential discoveries makes the mission unique in scope and scientific return

The Gaia launch in Dec 2013 marked the start of the operations and of the data processing. More than two years later, the DPAC has demonstrated its readiness to cope with the complexity of the real payload, its capacity for the massive data processing and its flexibility to adapt to unexpected features of the mission. The real data already processed has shown an extremely high quality, in some cases surpassing the expectations, and we are now about to start fulfilling the promise of Gaia, the release of massive catalogues of data with unprecedented precision. [+]

ICCUB Contribution

One of the most challenging aspect of Gaia is the data managing and reduction process to yield the final Gaia catalogue. ICCUB researchers have been deeply involved since the very beginning (1998) in this task. Nowadays the ICCUB researchers have a leading role at the highest technological, scientific and management levels of the Gaia Data Processing & Analysis Consortium (DPAC).  Firstly, a significant part of the software system that performs the ingestion, data reduction, production and verification of the Gaia satellite data is being designed, implemented, tested and operated by our groups, using large supercomputing facilities such as CSUC, CNS/BSC and CESGA. Secondly, off-line processes for astrophysical parameters and photometric standardisation are now fully operational and will be adapted to the evolving behaviour of the instrument in terms of stray light, basic angle variations and contamination on the optics. Finally, the tasks around the Gaia archive will become critical in the next years to support the operations for four data releases, with increasing volume and complexity of the data, and the intensive associated scientific exploitation, including the implementation of several sophisticated archive tools. And last but not least, it is time for our own science exploitation of the real data that will be made public in the releases, because this is the primary goal of the participation in Gaia, to address the challenging science cases . [+]