Galactic Archaeology with Stellar Spectra

Prof. Mark Cropper, Dr. George Seabroke, Dr. Steve Boudreault, Dr. Ignacio Ferreras, Dr. Daisuke Kawata

The Milky Way is the one disk galaxy that we can observe in great detail and study individual stars that span a wide range of ages and metallicities. The older stars that we observe are stellar fossils, containing information from the epoch of Galaxy formation. Studies of their chemical and kinematic properties are known as ''Galactic Archaeology''. The next ESA cornerstone mission, Gaia (launch 2013) is set to revolutionise Galactic Archaeology over the coming decade, building upon ongoing ground-based projects. Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) has major roles both in the mission development of Gaia and in the data processing consortium for the spectroscopy aspect. MSSL is also involved in several ground-based spectroscopic surveys.  Two involve ESO's 8m Very Large Telescope (VLT): the ESO-Gaia Survey, which will complement Gaia data, and GBOG (Ground-Based Observations for Gaia), which will help commission the Gaia satellite.  The other survey is the RAdial Velocity Experiment also observing spectra on the UK Schmidt Telescope of the Australian Astronomical Observatory.  These surveys offer the student the opportunity to learn from our experienced staff how to reduce observational spectra and extract astronomical properties of the observed stars. Then, comparing with theoretical models (collaboration with numerical simulation experts at MSSL), the student will unveil the mass distribution (both stellar and dark matter) of the Milky Way and the formation history of the Milky Way from these observational data. Through this unique PhD project, the student will build up skills to manage large sets of the observational data, extract important scientific information from them and contribute to the Galactic Archaeology revolution in the Gaia era.


Gaia Satellite. (Image credit: ESA)

The Very Large Telescope.

The Very Large Telescope. (Image credit: ESO)