News 2014

19/12/2014 First Gaia launch anniversary

Exactly one year ago, at 10:12 CET, Soyuz VS06 with Gaia on board took off from Europe's spaceport in French Guiana, ferrying ESA's billion-star surveyor into space. After an exciting year with a successful L2 orbit insertion, a challenging commissioning period and the start of routine operations, Gaia is now scanning the sky, mapping on average 40 million stars a day. On the occasion of the first launch anniversary, six members of the Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) share their launch and commissioning memories. Read their personal accounts here.

17/12/2014 Status of Gaia straylight analysis and mitigation actions

During commissioning it was found that the sky background observed by Gaia is significantly higher than expected. In the past months this issue has been investigated by an independent team involving experts from ESA, industry and the Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC). Following these investigations, it is now clear that the straylight is caused by two sources: the Sun and bright objects in the sky, most notably the Milky Way. To read the full article, click here.

12/12/2014 Call for Expressions of Interest in Participating in GREAT2Net

The GREAT steering committee invites the European and wider astronomy community, especially those who will benefit from the use of the astrometric, photometric and spectroscopic data from the Gaia satellite, to participate in the process of building a GREAT2Net COST network. This community 'EoI' call will gauge community interest in being part of the proposal to COST to fund a range of exciting networking and training activities, building the Gaia community and addressing key Gaia science topics. Activities proposed will commence in early 2016 dependent upon successful support from COST. The committee aims to close the Expression of Interest call on Friday, 23 January 2015. Groups who would like to participate are kindly asked to complete a short questionnaire. Further details can be found on the GREAT website.

05/12/2014: Vacancy: PhD and postdoctoral position in Nice

The Observatory of the Côte d'Azur (Nice, France) calls for applications for (1) a postdoctoral position and (2) a PhD position, both on " Galactic archaeology with Gaia and the Gaia-ESO Survey". More information can be found here. Applications can be submitted until 1 February 2015.

19/11/2014 New: Android version of Gaia app

The Gaia app, created by the University of Barcelona's Gaia team, is now also available for Android devices. It can be downloaded for free from Google Play. Users can find the iOS version for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch in the iTunes store.

6/11/2014 New study ups predicted number of exoplanets discovered by Gaia

In a study to appear in The Astrophysical Journal, and published today on arXiv, it is estimated that Gaia will have discovered some 20,000 Jupiter mass exoplanets by the time it completes its survey in 2019. Former Gaia project scientist Michael Perryman teamed up with Lennart Lindegren from Lund Observatory and Princeton University astronomers Joel Hartman and Gáspár Bakos to make a revised estimate of the expected numbers. Read more about the study here.

3/11/2014 Vacancies: Toulouse and Lund

18 months fixed-term contract position at CNES Toulouse for Gaia DPCC

Within the CNES Gaia project, part of the Ground Segment Products directorate, the post-holder will be responsible for the integration & validation of the scientific chains through to the completion of the development. See complete description and how to apply on the CNES site. Contact:

Two postdoc/researcher positions at Lund Observatory

Lund Observatory invites applications for (1) a postdoctoral fellowship on "Gaia-ESO Survey, 4MOST, and PLATO", and (2) a researcher fellowship on "PLATO and its synergies with Gaia". For more information, visit the Lund Observatory website.

13/10/2014 Photometric Science Alerts from Gaia

The Science Alerts Pipeline is entering its validation phase. Potential photometric alerts are provided to the community for follow-up even though there may still be many false alarms in the stream. A list of new candidates and details of the procedures can be found on the Photometric Science Alerts web pages.

06/10/2014 DPAC news: Early DPAC operations

Since Gaia's launch DPAC has been very busy processing the flood of data coming in every day. The automated processing pipelines as well as the offline data analysis by the DPAC payload experts worked fine during commissioning and the results thereof were discussed in this news item. Following the end of commissioning the DPAC entered its routine operations phase, with Gaia in Ecliptic pole scanning mode for the first month. The data from this phase are intended for bootstrapping essential calibrations (such as the PSF/LSF and photometric calibrations) through the repeated scanning of the same sky areas. The early data were also used to try out the science alerts pipeline which resulted in the first supernova discovery by Gaia. Recently the first results from the automated processing of RVS spectra were announced.

01/10/2014 Vacancy: 2015 ESTEC student placements

In 2015 ESA will offer students a wide range of work placement options again. The deadline for applications for an ESTEC placement is 31 October 2014. Candidates interested in working with the Gaia project scientist team can contact the Gaia helpdesk for advice and further information. Information about the selection process and the terms and conditions is available on the ESA Careers page.

23/09/2014 New: collection of commissioning and early routine phase images

A collection of commissioning and early routine phase images and figures is available now. Visit the new Media Gallery section.

12/09/2014 Gaia discovers its first supernova

While scanning the sky to measure the positions and movements of stars in our Galaxy, Gaia has discovered its first stellar explosion in another galaxy. This powerful event, now named Gaia14aaa, took place in a distant galaxy some 500 million light-years away, and was revealed via a sudden rise in the galaxy's brightness between two Gaia observations separated by one month. Read more about Gaia14aaa and its discovery here.

02/09/2014 Vacancy: 2015 ESA Fellowships in Space Science

ESA has recently announced an opportunity for post-doctoral research fellowships linked to its science missions, including Gaia. The fellowships have a starting date of 1 October 2015 and the application deadline is 1 October 2014. More details can be found here.

01/09/2014 Gaia in your pocket - mapping the Galaxy with the new Gaia app

The Gaia app was created by the University of Barcelona Gaia team and is available for free from the iTunes store in English, Spanish and Catalan. It runs on iOS devices, including the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The developer team is currently also working on an Android version, which will be available later this year. Find out more about the app on the ESA Gaia blog. Additional information is also available on Cosmos.

08/08/2014 Hipparcos: 25th launch anniversary

On 8 August 1989, 25 years ago, Hipparcos, the very first space mission for measuring the positions, distances, motions, brightness and colours of stars, was launched by an Ariane-4 rocket from Kourou. It pinpointed the positions of more than one hundred thousand stars to high precision, and more than one million stars to lesser precision. The primary products of the Hipparcos mission - the Hipparcos and Tycho Catalogues - were published by ESA in June 1997.

29/07/2014 The end of commissioning: Gaia starts routine operations

The commissioning of Gaia came to its formal end on 18 July 2014 when the board members of the mission in-orbit commissioning review (MIOCR) confirmed the readiness of the space and ground segments to start routine operations. The review summarised the commissioning activities both on ground and in orbit. Read more about the MIOCR here.

28/07/2014 Vacancy: INAF PhD fellowship

INAF-OATo and the University of Torino announce a Call for Applications for a PhD fellowship dedicated to the study of the Galactic warp and the local disk structure using Gaia data to be made available in the first intermediate data releases. The deadline for applications is 25 August 2014.

28/07/2014 Vacancy: post-doc/engineer position at Meudon Observatory

The Meudon group seeks a post-doc/engineer to work on the Gaia data validation, starting as soon as possible. For more information, visit the Meudon website.

24/07/2014 Now available: Gaia Observation Forecast Tool

The Gaia Observation Forecast Tool allows astronomers to find out when their targets will be observed by Gaia. It provides a forecast of times targets across the Gaia Focal Plane, based on the spacecraft's scanning operations. Users should note that no observation can be guaranteed as many reasons may lead to situations in which the data for an object at a predicted time will not be available. For more information and to access the tool, visit the Data & Tools section.

14/07/2014 Observations with "activated gates"

Final preparations are underway to start the normal scientific observations of Gaia. Read more in an article by Holger Voss, DPAC member and active blogger. The news item is available here.

03/07/2014 New on the blog: Asteroids at the "photo finish"

In an article on the ESA Gaia blog Paolo Tanga showcases Gaia's capabilities in detecting and identifying asteroids and describes how observation challenges are being handled successfully. Read the full article here. The images are also available in the "Image of the Week" section.

27/06/2014 New blog post: Commissioning the Radial Velocity Spectrometer

A blog post by George Seabroke, RVS Payload Expert, on behalf of the team commissioning the RVS instrument, is now available on the ESA Gaia blog.

17/06/2014 Vacancy: Software Developer at IoA/DPCI

The Institute of Astronomy (University of Cambridge) seeks a Java Software Developer to work as a member of the Data Processing and Analysis Consortium for the European Space Agency's Gaia project. The post-holder will work as part of the local DPCI (Cambridge Data Processing Centre) team of scientists/developers on data processing software for the ground segment of the mission, implementing data processing infrastructure components and algorithms for the calibration and removal of instrumental signatures from the scientific data generated by the satellite.

16/06/2014 Gaia blog: Preliminary analysis of stray light impact and strategies

A series of exhaustive tests have been conducted over the past few months to characterise some anomalies that have been revealed during the commissioning of Gaia following its successful launch in December 2013. Read more about the stray light issue and its impact on the ESA Gaia blog.

05/06/2014 New blog post: Gaia takes science measurements

As part of the ongoing commissioning activities, the Gaia team has started taking test spectroscopic measurements of known stars. Read more about the first spectroscopy observations on the ESA Gaia blog. A selection of first BP/RP and RVS spectra is available here.

07/05/2014 Vacancy: System and Software Engineer for Gaia SOC

As part of the Gaia SOC AGIS team at ESAC, the successful candidate will develop and integrate scientific algorithms, maintain existing code modules, support large-scale testing campaigns and aid in the creation of the first astrometric solution. Interested candidates can contact the Gaia Science Operations Manager for more information.

25/04/2014 DPAC newsletter No. 23

The new issue of the DPAC newsletter is available here.

24/04/2014 Gaia commissioning update on the blog

The latest commissioning update is available on the ESA Gaia blog. Read more about the ongoing commissioning activities.

11/04/2014 Vacancy: Java Developer and Researcher-Developer for Gaia Data Processing

The University of Edinburgh seeks a Java Developer and a Researcher-Developer to work as members of the Data Processing and Analysis Consortium for the European Space Agency's Gaia project. The posts are available as soon as possible and the initial appointments will run until 31 March 2016, with the possibility of further extension subject to the availability of additional funding.

04/04/2014 New blog entry: Gaia Live - Inspiring the next generation of European Space Scientists

A blog entry about the Gaia Live in School event is available now. Read the article by Rebecca Barnes and Nicholas Walton here.

26/03/2014 Gaia Live in Schools: Watch the replay

Gaia Live in Schools, an educational outreach project conceived and coordinated by Cambridge's Nicholas Walton, connected over 2,000 pupils yesterday with the excitement of ESA's Gaia mission. A question and answer session with Timo Prusti and David Milligan at ESOC was streamed live to the schools involved via a dedicated livestream channel. Watch the replay of the ESOC part of the Gaia Live event here.

14/03/2014 Cat's Eye Nebula intensity map shows improved image quality

A new image of the Cat's Eye Nebula (right) has been taken as part of Gaia calibration and testing. Obtained on 13 March, the image shows an improved sharpness compared to a previous image released in February (here on the left).

07/03/2014 New images: Ground-based observations of Gaia manoeuvre

Following a call by Stefan Jordan and Martin Altmann (University of Heidelberg) for Earth-bound observations to improve the prediction of Gaia's brightness under different viewing conditions, astronomers from around the world have submitted images and movies showing the change of Gaia's solar aspect angle and the resulting change in brightness on 26/27 February. A collection of images is available on this Gaia Cosmos page.

04/03/2014 Gaia tilt watched from Earth

Astronomers Peter Veres and Bryce Bolin, who were following a call for Earth-bound observations to improve the prediction of Gaia's brightness under different viewing conditions, used the 2.24m telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii to capture Gaia's tilt from 0 to 45 degrees on 27 February. Read more about their movie and the Gaia tests on the ESA Gaia blog.

17/02/2014 VST observation of Gaia

The tiny white dot highlighted in these two images is none other than ESA's Gaia satellite as seen with the Very Large Telescope Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. Find out more on the ESA Corporate website. The image is also available in the Media Gallery.

14/02/2014 Additional Gaia calibration images

Four additional images, taken as part of Gaia calibration and testing, are available now. The images show the Cat's Eye Nebula, the cluster NGC 2516 and the spiral galaxy Messier 94. Read more here.

12/02/2014 New blog post: "One month at L2"

Gaia has been in its operational orbit around L2 for about a month now, where it is undergoing a very rigorous test programme before starting on its main science observations. Read the latest Gaia blog post with a status update here.

22/01/2014 Gaia live

Where is Gaia right now? Download the kml file and open it in Google Earth to find out about Gaia's current position and distance from Earth (updated every five seconds). The file was generated by Emmanuel Joliet.

17/01/2014 DPAC newsletter No.22

The latest issue of the DPAC newsletter is available here. Topics include: DPAC News, Gaia Tracking and Orbit Determination and Gaia commissioning.

17/01/2014 First star shines for Gaia

This image shows Sadalmelik, a bright star in the constellation Aquarius and one of the first stars to be acquired by ESA's Gaia satellite. Sadalmelik was one of the first stars to be observed and processed. This image, while being saturated at the centre and showing that the mirrors are not yet focussed, gives us a first taste of the massive census of stars that Gaia is about to perform.

15/01/2014 Second part of L2 insertion manoeuvre successful

After a successful second L2 insertion manoeuvre, Gaia has arrived at its operational Lissajous orbit around L2. The execution of yesterday's manoeuvre was nominal with a deviation below 1% of the prediction. In the next few days calibration activities on the Basic Angle Monitoring and Wavefront Sensor devices will take place, including assessing the stray light due to the BAM laser. Read more about the manoeuvre on the ESA Corporate website.

08/01/2014 Gaia enters its operational orbit

Last night's critical manoeuvre boosted Gaia into its 263 000 x 707 000 x 370 000 km, 180 day-long orbit around L2. A small course correction will be made next week to complete the manoeuvre. Read more on the ESA Corporate website.

07/01/2014 Senior Research Fellow and two PhD positions at Lund Observatory

Lund Observatory invites applications for a position as Senior Research Fellow to develop methods and software to be used in the future Gaia Archive. The Observatory is also seeking one or two new PhD students. For more information, visit the Vacancies section.

06/01/2014 Gaia focal plane switch on: Behind the scenes at ESOC

Read about the Gaia focal plane switch on in a first-hand account by Gaia Science Operations Manager William O'Mullane.