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Galactic archaeology in and around the Milky Way

09 December 2011

PhD ceremony: Ms. E. Starkenburg, 11.00 uur, Aula Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Dissertation: Galactic archaeology in and around the Milky Way

Promotor(s): prof. E. Tolstoy, prof. A. Helmi

Faculty: Mathematics and Natural Sciences

There is much to be learnt from our own “cosmological backyard”: Only in our own Milky Way and some surrounding galaxies we can resolve and observe individual stars and learn from them about galaxies in general. Because stars keep a chemical fingerprint during their lives and also preserve kinematical information for long times, studying the present-day stars can teach us about the past.

In this thesis we discuss various topics in this area of Galactic archaeology. In one of our projects, we look for substructures in position and velocity space in the outer halo of the Milky Way. These can be remnants of disrupted dwarf galaxies, victims from a process called “cosmic cannibalism”. We find several substructures and deduce that at least 10%, but perhaps the whole halo of the Milky Way is built up from disrupted smaller galaxies.

Subsequently we focus on the study of the smaller satellite galaxies that (still) survive the gravitational forces from the much bigger Milky Way they orbit. A surprising result from earlier work was that no very primitive stars were found in these small galaxies. We show however that these stars are present. Further study of the chemical elements in the atmosphere of some of these primitive stars shows that these match better the (equivalent) population of stars in the Milky Way than the dominant population of stars in dwarf galaxies. We also model the formation and evolution of satellite galaxies and find that many of the observed properties can be well reproduced in our model.

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.40 p.m.

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