Mining the fossil record of the Milky Way

Mining the fossil record of the Milky Way

Galactic archaeologists use the chemical fingerprints encoded within the spectra of stars and gas throughout the Milky Way, coupled with observations of stellar motions and distances, to understand the formation and evolution of our Galaxy. But when comparing computer simulations of the Milky Way’s formation with this fossil record, astronomers found a serious mismatch between theory and nature, and this mismatch has confounded the field for over 20 years. Recent advances suggest that we might have finally made a breakthrough, by making use of powerful supercomputers and novel approaches to tapping into the energy released by exploding stars. This talk will demonstrate how we “mine” the fossil record of simulated galaxies, comparing and contrasting the results with the latest and greatest observational galactic archaeological experiments.

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About Brad Gibson

Brad Gibson is Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Central Lancashire. He completed his MSc and PhD at the University of British Columbia, where he built the world's first Liquid Mirror Telescope Observatory. Brad led the team using Type Ia supernovae to determine the expansion rate of the Universe, as part of the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project on the extragalactic distance scale. He also helped discover that the Magellanic Clouds are being being torn apart by the tidal forces of our Galaxy. In 2004 he identified the locations within our Galaxy most likely to harbour complex biological life, which National Geographic magazine named as one of the top 10 news stories of the year. His current research involves trying to model the evolution of the chemical and dynamical properties of galaxies.

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