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Is there a catalog of all known stars or brightest stars in our galaxy? Preferably with some sort of galactic coordinates instead of just night sky coordinates (right ascension, etc.) I'm trying to make a model of the milky way, explorable with an oculus rift.

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@self He says, "known stars". It implies catalogued. Otherwise, you got a point –  Cheeku Jun 13 at 4:05
    
What's the process like for cataloguing? Can we just go through celestial images taken from two locations, mark the stars and triangulate? Is this something that could potentially farmed out to Mechanial Turk? –  Axiverse Jun 13 at 6:35
    
@Cheeku I missed that. :( –  this Jun 13 at 14:05
    
@Axiverse Hard code the most known stars, and randomly/procedurally generate the rest. I hope to play you game someday. –  this Jun 13 at 14:07

3 Answers 3

Hipparcos, the predecessor to Gaia, has a dataset (http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/Cat?I/239) with 3D positions for 100,000 stars. While we have much larger datasets of galactic stars, such as SDSS, finding the distances to stars is much harder. Parallax is the most precise technique for finding distances. Even for Gaia, we will only be able to measure distances to 10% precisions.

There is a "galactic coordinate system", but that stil has the sun at the center and the line between the sun and the galactic center as its reference. There are calculators that can convert RA and Dec to galactic coordinates (e.g. http://python4astronomers.github.io/astropy/coordinates.html). You can use that and the distance to place them in space.

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It should be noted that any such catalog does not contain all stars in the galaxy. That would be impossible at the moment. However, existing catalogs represent best current efforts - so, in a way, that is the answer to the OP. –  Florin Andrei Jun 16 at 18:48

My understanding is that any star catalog today represents only such a very tiny and local part of the Milky Way, that you would have very little use of it for your purpose.

In a year or two the Gaia space telescope will have mapped the one billion or 1% of the nearest and brightest stars in the Milky Way. Even then, to model a galaxy one needs other ideas than maps of individual stars.

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Is there a way to actively track Gaia's progress as they are mapping stars one by one? –  Axiverse Jun 13 at 6:57
    
It seems that their first data release will be 22 months into the mission - so around end of 2015. Here's the link, still looking for a mailing list or intermediate data. Data Release Scenario –  Axiverse Jun 13 at 7:12

No, such a catalogues does not (yet) exist. There are two reasons.

1 The Milky Way galaxy is about 20kpc (1pc ~= 3 lyr) across and only the very brightest stars are individually identifyable across such large a distance (such bright stars by their nature are very massive and hence young). Astronomers tend to cataloge stars by their apparent brightness, which for stars of identical luminosity declines as $1/d^2$ ($d$=distance). As a consequence, most catalogues contain only stars in the immediate galactic neighbourhood of the Sun. The Hipparcos catalogue (mentioned in another answer), for example, has most stars within a mere 100pc of the Sun.

2 Obtaining distances for individual stars is inherently difficult, in particular the more distant the star in question is. Accurate distances for stare several kpc away can currently only be obtained by indirect methods applicable only to certain types of stars (such as RR Lyrae variables). The classical trigonometric parallax measurement for such distances, however, is subject of ESA's ongoing Gaia mission.

ESA's Gaia satellite launched last year aims at cataloguing about $10^9$ stars across the Milky Way, including their velocity. The first preliminary versions of resulting catalogue, however, will still take some time to appear.

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