Milky Way Mapper Gaia  on Monday.

to Release New Data

A space telescope that observes

 stars in the Milky Way as they appear today reveals what happened to the galaxy

When it was just a couple

 of billion years old, and an upcoming data release will allow astronomers to peek into an even more distant past.

The European Space Agency's

 Gaia mission is not a household name like the Hubble Space Telescope or the James Webb Space Telescope.

Yet the mission

 currently produces the most scientific papers and, as Milky Way

Instead of observing the universe

 one fascinating distant object at a time, Gaia scans the whole sky over and over again.

The flying-saucer-like telescope,

nestled in Lagrange Point 2 some 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth, observes 2 billion of the brightest stars in the sky

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