This image of twinkling stars is the first picture to be beamed back to Earth by the Gaia telescope — whose mission is to scan the entire sky. It’s actually a test image, designed to help the European Space Agency fine-tune the behaviour of the instruments aboard the telescope before it gets down to the real task at hand. You’re actually looking at the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is a satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way.
Ironically, this first image is also going to be one of the last. Gaia’s main scientific task doesn’t actually involve sending full images back to Earth; rather, it will scan the sky and beam back huge quantities of raw data signals which will be processed on terra firma. [ESA]