ESA’s Gaia mission will create the most accurate map yet of the Milky Way. By making accurate measurements of the positions and motions of 1% of the total population of roughly 100 billion stars, it will answer questions about the origin and evolution of our home Galaxy. The Soyuz launcher, operated by Arianespace lifted off at 09:12 GMT on Dec 19 with Gaia on board. A few hours after, one of the GLORIA telescopes, the Pi-of-the-Sky-North experiment at the BOOTES-1 astronomical station at ESAt/INTA-CEDEA in Huelva (Spain), recorded the spacecraft on its route towards an orbit around a gravitationally-stable virtual point in space called L2, some 1.5 million kilometres from Earth in the direction opposite to the Sun.
For a full report on the launch from Michael Perryman go here.