The New Milky Way, in 3D, in 30 minutes

Presentation Date: 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022


Heidelberg, Germany

Presentation Slides: 

Seminar presentation at MPIA, Heidelberg.

Just a century ago, astronomers were just barely recognizing that the Milky Way was a galaxy amongst many. Not-quite half a century ago, radio astronomers began to map out dense, star-forming clouds within the Milky Way. Until extraordinarily recently, the term “3D” in studies of star formation in the Milky Way and other galaxies referred to  “position-position-velocity” maps made possible by spectral-line mapping using radio telescopes. While velocity measurements give deep insight into the workings of the interstellar medium, they cannot serve as a proxy for true distance within galaxies. So, researchers working with spectral-line cubes have long wished for reliable distance measurements that would bring a real 3D ISM into perspective. Today, thanks to near-miraculous innovations in data science and a wealth of new data from large surveys, including Gaia, it has just become possible to map out interstellar matter in true 3D.

In this talk, I will explain how 3D dust mapping, and complementary techniques, are revealing a wealth of previously-unknown structures and phenomena associated with the “New” Milky Way. The features observed are literally “new,” in that they are caused by relatively short-timescale phenomena such as feedback from star formation, interactions of massive extragalactic objects with the Milky Way, and other as-yet unidentified phenomena. The specific results I will present include: discoveries of The Radcliffe Wave and the Perseus-Taurus Superbubble; 1-pc-resolution 3D maps of individual molecular clouds; unraveling the origins of Barnard’s Loop in Orion; and the “Star Formation Frontier” at the surface of The Local Bubble. I will conclude with a discussion of the wonderful opportunities and challenges these new 3D results pose to the theory and simulation communities. 

Relevant Links

  • Dataverse & Keynote TBD