On a typical night on Earth, in an urban area with light pollution, you can look up at a section of the sky and count the visible stars. Maybe you will spot a few dozen.
The European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite has a much better view of the Milky Way. An image sequence captured by Gaia shows an estimated 2.8 million stars.
Gaia is on a mission to build a 3D map of the Milky Way. The ESA calls it a “billion-star surveyor.” The image sequence shows just one small corner of our galaxy, but it’s an area densely stuffed with stars.
Gaia captured the image in early February, and the ESA released it on Monday. It covers an area called the Sagittarius I Window, which is near the galactic center, the crowded heart of the Milky Way.
There are around 100 thousand million stars in the Milky Way, according to the ESA, so looking at just 2.8 million of them shows us just a small fraction of our home galaxy.