Megamap of the Milky Way and UK science unrest
Milky Way mega-map adds depth to star movements
Astronomers’ primary reference guide to the Milky Way has received a major update. The Gaia mission, in which a spacecraft tracks nearly two billion stars, has released a vastly improved map. The map now includes the 3D motions of tens of millions of stars and thousands of asteroids, as well as detections of star “quakes” and possible extrasolar planets.
The mission team unveiled the treasure, which consists of 34 months of data, on June 13.
Gaia was launched by the European Space Agency in 2013 and orbits the Sun at a fixed distance from Earth. It takes repeated measurements of the same stars from different perspectives. This causes each star’s apparent position to change by a small angle – usually millionths of a degree – proportional to its distance. The mission team uses these changes and a technique called parallax to calculate the star’s distance from the Sun.
The biggest addition to the previous catalog is the set of detailed spectra for about a million stars. By measuring the Doppler shift of a spectrum, the team calculated 30 million “radial velocity” measurements. Each indicates the speed at which a star is approaching or moving away from the Sun. Together with Gaia’s measurements of the star’s motion across the sky and its distance, the data provides a full reconstruction of the star’s path as it orbits the Galaxy.
Fears are growing that Britain will quit EU research fund
Concerns are growing that the UK is set to quit the European Union’s Horizon Europe research program after UK science minister George Freeman (pictured) said on June 8 that ‘time is running out ” for a positive resolution.
With a budget of nearly 100 billion euros ($106 billion), Horizon Europe provides research funds to scientists from EU member states and other nations who choose to become “associate members”. But the UK’s participation in the program has been in question since the country voted to leave the EU in 2016. In December 2020, the EU and the UK reached an agreement under the of the global Brexit agreement to continue the Horizon Europe collaboration. But issues over the deal’s ‘Northern Ireland Protocol’ have stalled its ratification.
The UK’s participation in Horizon is “used as a bargaining chip in a much wider and broader political negotiation”, says Kieron Flanagan, a science and policy researcher at the University of Manchester, UK.
The UK government has said that if a deal cannot be struck it will develop its own £15 billion (US$18.7 billion) research program to compete with Horizon Europe.