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10/23/15: Public Evening Lecture: Marc Aaronson Memorial


Vasily Belokurov, IOA Cambridge, UK

Title: Galactic Archaeology: A History of Violence; Trails of Dying Satellites; Invisible Galaxies; and Dark Matter

Almost completely devoid of stars, the outskirts of the Milky Way look like a vast and boring desert. This indeed was the conventional belief until quite recently when a revolution in Galactic Archaeology began at the turn of century. The last two decades have seen our view of the Galactic backyard, the so-called halo, transformed through careful mining of gigantic astronomical databases. Remarkably, the halo of the Milky Way harbours a well-kept secret, a history of Galactic cannibalism: the disruption and devouring of smaller galaxies by the more massive one.

Galactic Archaeology sifts this wreckage to study the distant past of the Milky Way corresponding to redshifts not accessible even to today's most powerful telescopes. By uncovering rare, old and chemically un-evolved stars, we can learn about the physical conditions in the early Universe and the assembly history of the Milky Way. These stars are not scattered randomly on the sky, they cluster together with motions governed by the gravitational potential of the Galaxy’s dark matter halo. We will chat about the unexpected discoveries made in the process of the Galactic “dig” and show what we have learnt of its dark secrets through studies of the stellar halo.

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