Archeology with stars: unraveling the history of the Milky Way

How do galaxies evolve? What was the formation history of the Milky Way? How can we tell? What do we know about the younger years of the Milky Way?

There are many billions of galaxies like the Milky Way in the Universe. Realising this, we may not be in such a special galaxy after all. But it is the one we know best, as we can study it in much more detail than any other in the Universe.

We can observe the individual stars and measure for example, how old they are, their chemical composition and how they move. All these properties help us reconstruct the story of the formation of the Milky Way, and to carry out as it were, some kind of Galactic Archeology.

This relatively young research field is currently booming, thanks to many new instruments and surveys on the ground. In particular, from the ESA space mission ‘Gaia’. This mission is currently mapping the Milky Way in exquisite detail, and has led us to a true revolution of our understanding of the Milky Way.

Travel back in space and time with the professor behind this mission, Prof. Amina Helmi, who received the Spinoza prize for outstanding/intriguing work.

On Monday 24 February, we start this mission from Planet x31, where we will delve into the most recent discoveries that Gaia has made possible, and outline the history of the Milky Way in the last 10 billion years.

Amina Helmi is Professor at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute at the University of Groningen. Her research focuses on the evolution and dynamics of galaxies, in particular the Milky Way. She is member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and has received the Spizona Prize in 2019 – the highest scientific award in the Netherlands. She has discovered the Helmi Stream.