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CORDIS - Risultati della ricerca dell’UE

Dynamical imprints of the evolutionary history of the Milky Way

Final Report Summary - GALACTICA (Dynamical imprints of the evolutionary history of the Milky Way)

The main goal of the ERC project "Galactica" was to develop a state-of-the-art understanding of the Galaxy, with focus on the dynamics of the different components.

At the core of the research carried out lay two cutting-edge projects: the Aquarius Project simulations and the RAVE spectroscopic survey. The Aquarius --the largest ever cosmological simulations of a dark matter halo possibly resembling ours, were complemented with a phenomenological model of how galaxies form. Some of the results that stemmed from this work are an understanding of the properties of dwarf galaxies, the possibility that interactions with dark objects (dark matter halos that were unable to form any stars) with dwarf galaxies may result in dramatic changes in their morphologies. On the scale of the Milky Way, these superb simulations highlighted that mergers leave long lasting tracers and that this history may well soon be unveiled by the next generation of astronomical surveys. On the other hand, the RAVE survey has provided a fantastic dynamical map of the Solar vicinity, from which we have learned for example, that the motions of nearby stars are strongly perturbed by the bar at the center of the Milky Way, in ways that were perhaps unexpected.

This program has enabled us to be in an excellent position to exploit the datasets that will soon be provided by the Gaia satellite. It is fair to state that Galactic Astronomy has entered a new era driven by the launch of the European Space Agency Gaia mission at the end of 2013. In a period of five years, Gaia will produce a vast catalog of the spatial distribution, kinematics and properties of stars in the Milky Way. It will be 10,000 times larger in number of objects, and several 100 times more precise than what is available now. This will lead to a revolution in our understanding of our home galaxy, the Milky Way.