Milky Way and Environs

Research on the Milky Way and nearby galaxies at UCSC covers a wide range of topics, including the star formation and the interstellar medium, stellar evolution, and stellar populations.

In the area of the interstellar medium, Mark Krumholz and Peter Bodenheimer, members of the Program of Inter(Stellar and Galactic) Medium Studies, use simulations and theory to help understand the physical and chemical properties of interstellar gas in the Milky Way and nearby galaxies, and the process by which this gas is converted into new stars.Milky Way A

At the opposite end of the stellar life cycle, Mike Bolte and recent graduate student Kurtis Williams (now an NSF fellow) observe white dwarfs, in an attempt to understand the process of mass loss from stars that have exhausted their supply of hydrogen fuel, and the resulting distribution of new elements into interstellar space. Graeme Smith observes red giant stars, the precursors to white dwarfs. His goal is to understand the origin of distribution of heavy elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen in these stars. On the theoretical side, John Faulkner conducts research on the process of lithium burning in horizontal branch stars, and a research group led by Stan Woosley uses simulations to study supernova explosions in massive stars.(More information on this is available on the high energy page.)

In the area of stellar populations and galactic structure, Jean Brodie leads the Study of the Astrophysics of Globular clusters in Extragalactic Systems (SAGES) group. Their work focuses on observations of globular clusters, some of the oldest known structures in the universe, which contain a fossil record of early star formation and galaxy-galaxy interactions. Raja Guhathakurta leads the Spectroscopic and Photometric Landscape of Andromeda's Stellar Halo (SPLASH) survey, which studies the history of star formation and galaxy interactions using observations of the nearby galaxy M31. Connie Rockosi investigates similar topics using large-scale surveys of stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and SEGUE, the Sloan Extension for Galactic Understanding and Exploration.

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