Europe

Space agency starts to unfold atlas of 1 billion stars in 3D

  • A man walks in front of a slide show depicting a representation of the ESA Gaia Project, at the ESA center in Villanueva de la Canada, near Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. the European Space Agency said Wednesday its mission to chart more than 1 billion stars in the Milky Way is on track for completion in a year's time. The agency released the first data from its ongoing effort, called the Gaia Mission, to draw the biggest and most precise three-dimensional map of our galaxy. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

    A man walks in front of a slide show depicting a representation of the ESA Gaia Project, at the ESA center in Villanueva de la Canada, near Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. the European Space Agency said Wednesday its mission to chart more than 1 billion stars in the Milky Way is on track for completion in a year's time. The agency released the first data from its ongoing effort, called the Gaia Mission, to draw the biggest and most precise three-dimensional map of our galaxy. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)  (The Associated Press)

  • Scientists look under a scaled reproduction of the GAIA surveyor after an event of the European Space Agency, or ESA, to release the first data on its GAIA mission to make a space map, at the ESA center in Villanueva de la Canada, near Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. The European Space Agency said Wednesday its mission to chart more than 1 billion stars in the Milky Way is on track for completion in a year's time. The agency released the first data from its ongoing effort, called the Gaia Mission, to draw the biggest and most precise three-dimensional map of our galaxy. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

    Scientists look under a scaled reproduction of the GAIA surveyor after an event of the European Space Agency, or ESA, to release the first data on its GAIA mission to make a space map, at the ESA center in Villanueva de la Canada, near Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. The European Space Agency said Wednesday its mission to chart more than 1 billion stars in the Milky Way is on track for completion in a year's time. The agency released the first data from its ongoing effort, called the Gaia Mission, to draw the biggest and most precise three-dimensional map of our galaxy. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)  (The Associated Press)

  • Scientists look under a scaled reproduction of the GAIA surveyor at an event of the European Space Agency, or ESA, to release the first data on its GAIA mission to make a space map, at the ESA center in Villanueva de la Canada, near Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. The European Space Agency said Wednesday its mission to chart more than 1 billion stars in the Milky Way is on track for completion in a year's time. The agency released the first data from its ongoing effort, called the Gaia Mission, to draw the biggest and most precise three-dimensional map of our galaxy. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

    Scientists look under a scaled reproduction of the GAIA surveyor at an event of the European Space Agency, or ESA, to release the first data on its GAIA mission to make a space map, at the ESA center in Villanueva de la Canada, near Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. The European Space Agency said Wednesday its mission to chart more than 1 billion stars in the Milky Way is on track for completion in a year's time. The agency released the first data from its ongoing effort, called the Gaia Mission, to draw the biggest and most precise three-dimensional map of our galaxy. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)  (The Associated Press)

If space is the final frontier, it will help to have an accurate map, and the European Space Agency says its mission to chart more than 1 billion stars in the Milky Way is on track for completion in a year's time.

The agency released the first data Wednesday from its ongoing effort to draw the biggest and most precise three-dimensional map of our galaxy.

Mission manager Fred Jansen told a news conference in Madrid that he is "extremely happy" with the precision of the data gathered so far. It is being distributed among scientists for analysis.

At the heart of the five-year mission is the 10-meter (33-foot)-wide Gaia spacecraft, which resembles a barrel sitting on a saucer. It carries two telescopes and is orbiting slowly around the sun.