Gaia's Latest Discoveries

A speeding interstellar invader, the fastest-growing black hole, and more than 10,000 nearby white dwarfs. These are just a few of the early results from the newly released Gaia data.

At noon on April 25, much to the delight of astronomers from around the world, the European Space Agency released one of the largest datasets ever compiled in the history of astronomy. The second release of data from the Gaia satellite – which precisely measured the positions, motions, colors, and luminosities of over a billion Milky Way stars – provided astronomers with a treasure trove of information just waiting to be explored. And within less than a month, many researchers have already found some gems.

Among the most intriguing results stemming from the recently released Gaia data are: the discovery of a supernova-propelled white dwarf zipping through the Milky Way at a steady clip of 5 million miles per hour; a 12-billion-year-old supermassive black hole that is devouring mass faster than any other black hole ever found; and nearly 14,000 white dwarfs, some of which likely formed through mergers, all located within a few hundred light-years of Earth.

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