(CNN) — What do you need to map a billion stars? A billion-pixel camera certainly helps.
Scientists hope to glean more clues about the origin and evolution of the universe, and in particular our own galaxy, when a camera of this incredible scale—fitted to the Gaia space telescope—is launched Thursday.
Gaia, which is due to lift off from French Guyana, has been tasked with mapping the Milky Way in greater detail than ever before.
Designed and built by Astrium for the European Space Agency (ESA), the makers say the telescope is so sensitive that it could measure a person's thumbnail from the Moon, or to put it another way, detect the width of a human hair from 1,000km (620 miles) away.