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ESA Satellite Locates Over a Billion Stars

Materion Filters Contribute to Gaia Success

After three years of anticipation by astronomers worldwide, the Gaia mission has published the most precise map ever completed of the Milky Way galaxy. The European Space Agency (ESA) has published the largest all-sky survey of celestial objects that will revolutionize our understanding of the stars. The concentrated information from ESA will allow ground-based astronomers for the first time to follow- up from land and study such data as stars’ distance, precise position and movements across the sky. 

Gaia Star Map_ESAGaia's catalog of more than a billion stars (Credit: European Space Agency)

Materion Precision Optics contributed to this major event by enabling the science behind it. They produced the large optical coatings for key, high performance precision optic filters for instruments in the Gaia Payload Module. The special coatings were designed, developed, deposited and tested in the Westford, MA facility in coordination with ESA.

The RVS filter is a large format (approximately 8.5 x 7 inches) precision optic with very challenging surface figure and spectral requirements. The flatness required is less than 20 nm deviation from a perfect plane, no easy achievement to fabricate or measure. The filter met, and in many cases exceeded, the spectral requirements. It exhibited excellent spectral and wavefront performance.

Hundreds of astronomers began to access the ESA catalogue as soon as it was made publicly available on September 14. Among the early surprises was a detailed map showing the Milky Way as bigger than was thought. Materion Precision Optics is proud to have our optics as part of the Gaia mission. For more information, contact Tom Mooney, Product Engineering Manager – Westford, at