Have you ever witnessed 40,000 shooting stars together across the sky at the same time? Your answer will be No, for sure. Well, the European Space Agency (ESA) has created a 60-second time-lapse simulation of the next 400,000 years of the night sky view of our Milky Way, according to a blog post on the ESA’s website for the Gaia space observatory.
You will see 40,000 stars move through space, all located within 325 light years of our Sun, leaving long trails of light. Each point of light represents a real object in the Milky Way, and each bright trail shows the projected motion of that object through the galaxy over the next 400,000 years.
The brighter and faster streaks are closer to our solar system, while the dimmer and slower are live much far away.
ESA researchers say the simulation reveals a pattern that is not surprising: by the end of the animation, most of the stars appear to be on the right side of the screen, while the left side remains relatively blank. It is not because the stars are attracted to a newborn black hole or an alien tractor beam.
It’s just that our sun is constantly moving, and passing stars appear more clustered in the opposite direction.
Watch: Epic time-lapse of the Milky Way
“If you imagine yourself moving through a crowd of people (who are standing still), then in front of you the people will appear to move apart as you approach them, while behind you the people will appear to stand ever closer together as you move away from them,” ESA researchers wrote in a blog post. “This effect also happens due to the motion of the sun with respect to the stars.”
The data that made this mosaic of cosmic fireflies possible comes from the third official data release of the Gaia satellite (EDR3), which was made public on December 3.
In the new data dump, there is a detailed info about more than 1.8 billion objects, including the precise positions, velocities and orbital trajectories of over 330,000 stars located within 325 light-years of Earth, according to a news release from the ESA.
About the ESA Gaia satellite
The Gaia satellite was launched in 2013 with the express mission of measuring the positions, distances and movements of stars. The second data release, published in 2018, helped astronomers make the most detailed map of the universe to date. The new third version adds around 100 million new objects to that treasure trove, ESA researchers said.