We can all look at the Milky Way (street lights permitting) but what is it that we see? How far away are the stars? How big is everything? How fast are stars moving? Are there really lots of potentially killer asteroids? What else is out there that doesn't shine? Where did it all come from?
The European Space Agency satellite Gaia, to be launched in late 2013, will give us the first ever 3-dimensional census of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, and provide answers to those questions - and more. Gerry Gilmore leads the UK Gaia programme, and will introduce the science, the satellite, and explain how school classes will be involved in
original astrophysical research to explain Gaia's discoveries.