Context. We present the second Gaia data release, Gaia DR2, consisting of astrometry, photometry, radial velocities, and information on astrophysical parameters and variability, for sources brighter than magnitude 21. In addition epoch astrometry and photometry are provided for a modest sample of minor planets in the solar system. Aims. A summary of the contents of Gaia DR2 is presented, accompanied by a discussion on the differences with respect to Gaia DR1 and an overview of the main limitations which are still present in the survey. Recommendations are made on the responsible use of Gaia DR2 results. Methods. The raw data collected with the Gaia instruments during the first 22 months of the mission have been processed by the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) and turned into this second data release, which represents a major advance with respect to Gaia DR1 in terms of completeness, performance, and richness of the data products. Results. Gaia DR2 contains celestial positions and the apparent brightness in G for approximately 1.7 billion sources. For 1.3 billion of those sources, parallaxes and proper motions are in addition available. The sample of sources for which variability information is provided is expanded to 0.5 million stars. This data release contains four new elements: broad-band colour information in the form of the apparent brightness in the GBP (330–680 nm) and GRP (630–1050 nm) bands is available for 1.4 billion sources; median radial velocities for some 7 million sources are presented; for between 77 and 161 million sources estimates are provided of the stellar effective temperature, extinction, reddening, and radius and luminosity; and for a pre-selected list of 14 000 minor planets in the solar system epoch astrometry and photometry are presented. Finally, Gaia DR2 also represents a new materialisation of the celestial reference frame in the optical, the Gaia-CRF2, which is the first optical reference frame based solely on extragalactic sources. There are notable changes in the photometric system and the catalogue source list with respect to Gaia DR1, and we stress the need to consider the two data releases as independent. Conclusions. Gaia DR2 represents a major achievement for the Gaia mission, delivering on the long standing promise to provide parallaxes and proper motions for over 1 billion stars, and representing a first step in the availability of complementary radial velocity and source astrophysical information for a sample of stars in the Gaia survey which covers a very substantial fraction of the volume of our galaxy.
Context. Gaia Data Release 2 provides high-precision astrometry and three-band photometry for about 1.3 billion sources over the full sky. The precision, accuracy, and homogeneity of both astrometry and photometry are unprecedented. Aims. We highlight the power of the Gaia DR2 in studying many fine structures of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram (HRD). Gaia allows us to present many different HRDs, depending in particular on stellar population selections. We do not aim here for completeness in terms of types of stars or stellar evolutionary aspects. Instead, we have chosen several illustrative examples. Methods. We describe some of the selections that can be made in Gaia DR2 to highlight the main structures of the Gaia HRDs. We select both field and cluster (open and globular) stars, compare the observations with previous classifications and with stellar evolutionary tracks, and we present variations of the Gaia HRD with age, metallicity, and kinematics. Late stages of stellar evolution such as hot subdwarfs, post-AGB stars, planetary nebulae, and white dwarfs are also analysed, as well as low-mass brown dwarf objects. Results. The Gaia HRDs are unprecedented in both precision and coverage of the various Milky Way stellar populations and stellar evolutionary phases. Many fine structures of the HRDs are presented. The clear split of the white dwarf sequence into hydrogen and helium white dwarfs is presented for the first time in an HRD. The relation between kinematics and the HRD is nicely illustrated. Two different populations in a classical kinematic selection of the halo are unambiguously identified in the HRD. Membership and mean parameters for a selected list of open clusters are provided. They allow drawing very detailed cluster sequences, highlighting fine structures, and providing extremely precise empirical isochrones that will lead to more insight in stellar physics. Conclusions. Gaia DR2 demonstrates the potential of combining precise astrometry and photometry for large samples for studies in stellar evolution and stellar population and opens an entire new area for HRD-based studies.
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