The Milky Way as the frontier laboratory for cosmology
Dr. Ana Bonaca
Institute for Theory and Computation Fellow
Harvard/Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
The Milky Way is a stepping stone to understanding galaxies and the universe. Being a typical galaxy, inferring events in its history helps to develop the overall theory of galaxy formation. Further, since the effects of dark matter are observable in individual stars, the Milky Way provides an excellent setting for testing the nature of dark matter. So far, the progress on these fundamental topics has been made predominantly by studying the spatial distribution of different stellar populations. Now, the Gaia mission is revolutionizing the way we view our Galaxy by delivering precise proper motions, complemented by radial velocity measurements from ground-based spectroscopic surveys. With 3D positions and velocities that these datasets provide for millions of stars, I plan to constrain the formation history of the Milky Way and the structure of its dark matter halo.
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