Gaia Orbiting Nothing

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 6,787
    ESA’s Gaia spacecraft that is planned to map the Universe has finally reached its orbit around a virtual point astronomers have named L2.

     

    ESA’s Gaia spacecraft has finally made it to orbit around nothing.  Yep, you heard me right—nothing.  Well, not necessarily nothing.  The spacecraft will be orbiting a virtual point known as L2 that provides optimal Universe viewing while be able to use its sunshield as protection from light and heat from the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon.  Keeping its instruments cool will allow for extended life in space.  L2 is known as a Lagrange point where gravitational forces between two masses, like the Earth and Sun, add up to compensate for the centrifugal force of Earth’s motion around the Sun.  And they’re great observation points!