NASA Astrophysics Theory Program (ATP) grant: modeling the Milky Way

NASA’s Astrophysics Theory Program (ATP) has awarded our team

a grant for Modeling Galactic Archaeology of the Milky WayKudos in particular to Robyn Sanderson, who led a significant component of our science case. Our primary goal with this grant is to turn our Latte suite of FIRE-2 simulations of Milky Way-like galaxies into synthetic star catalogs and mock surveys of the Milky Way, and make these datasets publically available, to provide theoretical predictions and tools for the many surveys of the Milky Way, including the Gaia space telescope.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Early Release Science program: resolved stellar populations


The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) announced its first competitive observing allocations for the Cycle 1 Early Release Science (ERS) program, and the allocation committee awarded our team, led by Dan Weisz, 27 hours for The Resolved Stellar Populations Early Release Science Program. While much focus of JWST for galaxy science has emphasized high-redshift galaxies, JWST also promises significant advancements in observations of resolved stellar populations in nearby galaxies and star clusters, to understand their star formation histories, stellar initial mass functions, dust extinction, and (combined with HST) proper motions. Congratulations to Dan and the whole team!

Aspen summer workshop: Milky Way dynamics

The Aspen Center for Physics has accepted our proposal for a summer workshop in 2018 on the Dynamics of the Milky Way System for the Era of Gaia. Thanks to superb co-organizers Sarah Loebman, Robyn Sanderson, Hans-Walter Rix, Nitya Kallivayalil, and Juna Kollmeier. Our workshop will occur 2018 Aug 26 – Sep 16 and will focus on observational analysis and theoretical modeling of stellar dynamics of the entire Milky Way system, from stars in the disk and bulge to the satellite galaxies, stellar streams, and stars throughout the halo, as we enter the era of the incredible Gaia satellite mission. We aim to bring together observers, modelers, and simulators, to discuss (1) how to analyze this wealth of high-precision dynamics data and (2) how to develop accurate, cosmologically informed models to interpret them. The overarching goals are galactic archaeology, to understand the full 3D formation history of the entire Milky Way system, and near-field cosmology, to use stellar dynamics to measure the distribution and test the nature of dark matter.

real job gets real

Having been on leave (and pretending to be just a postdoc) over the last year, today I fully assume my position as assistant professor of physics at UC Davis. [Gulp.]

Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Theory grant: quenching of satellite galaxies

Space Telescope Science Institute has awarded our team

a Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Theory grant for Understanding the physics of gas stripping and star-formation quenching of the satellite dwarf galaxies in the Local Group. Our goal is to use our Latte suite of FIRE-2 simulations to understand how satellite galaxies evolve after they fall into a host halo like the Milky Way, with emphasis on how (internal) stellar feedback and (external) environmental processes like ram-pressure stripping remove their gas and quench their star formation, as observed in the Local Group.

Blue Waters supercomputer: 160 million core-hour allocation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded our FIRE collaboration an allocation of 160 million core-hours on NCSA’s Blue Waters supercomputer for Probing New Physics in Galaxy Formation at Ultra-High Resolution. With this allocation, we will push our FIRE-2 simulations, include the Latte suite of Milky Way-like galaxies, to unprecedented resolution: cosmological zoom-in simulations using over a billion particles per galaxy. We also will include new physical processes, including magneto-hydrodynamics, self-consistent cosmic ray transport/feedback, and full radiative transfer. Congratulations to the FIRE collaboration!

Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Treasury Program: MW-6D survey

Space Telescope Science Institute has awarded our team

  • PI Nitya Kallivayalil
  • co-PI Andrew Wetzel
  • co-investigators Jay Anderson, Gurtina Besla, Tom Brown, Alis Deason, Tobias Fritz, Marla Geha, Raja Guhathakurta, Evan Kirby, Steve Majewski, Josh Simon, Tony Sohn, Erik Tollerud, and Roeland van der Marel

a Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Treasury Program of 164 orbits for Milky Way Cosmology: Laying the Foundation for Full 6-D Dynamical Mapping of the Nearby UniverseThese Hubble Space Telescope (HST) observations will provide the initial baselines for long-term proper-motion measurements for all of the known satellite galaxies around the Milky Way. Our goal is to measure the orbital motions of these galaxies as they move across the sky over the next 3 – 10 years, to complete their full 6-dimensional orbital phase-space. Our key science goals are to

  • Dynamically measure the mass distribution of the Milky Way’s dark-matter halo
  • Understand the role of the Milky Way’s environment on the evolution of satellite galaxies
  • Use low-mass galaxies as probes of the epoch of reionization
  • Test physical associations of satellite galaxies
  • Measure internal stellar kinematics of galaxies, to test the nature of Cold Dark Matter (CDM)