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Europe launches mapping satellite

The European Space Agency has launched a satellite it hopes will produce the most accurate three-dimensional map of our part of the Milky Way galaxy.

The agency said the Gaia satellite lifted off into space aboard a Russian-made Soyuz carrier system from French Guiana.

Gaia is heading to a stable orbit called the Lagrange 2 point where Earth will shield it from the Sun.

Once it arrives, the satellite will begin its mission to survey a billion stars in Earth's galactic neighbourhood.

Gaia will also use its 1,000-megapixel camera to hunt for planets, asteroids and comets beyond our solar system, and test a key part of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity.

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