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This closing contribution is structured as a tour of developments of Galactic astronomy over the last forty years, seen from an entirely personal viewpoint. On this background, I try to place some of the current developments in context, with reference to many of the key contributions to this meeting, and speculate where we may be heading in the near future.
In this contribution I shall focus on the structure of the Galactic thin disk. The evolution of the thin disk and its chemical properties have been discussed in detail by T. Bensby's contribution in conjunction with the properties of the Galactic thick disk, and by L.Olivia in conjunction with the properties of the Galactic bulge. I will review and discuss the status of our understanding of three major topics, which have been the subject of intense research nowadays, after long years of silence: (1) the spiral structure of the Milky Way, (2) the size of the Galactic disk, and (3) the nature of the Local arm (Orion spur), where the Sun is immersed. The provisional conclusions of this discussion are that: (1) we still have quite a poor knowledge of the Milky Way spiral structure, and the main disagreements among various tracers are still to be settled; (2) the Galactic disk does clearly not have an obvious luminous cut-off at about 14 kpc from the Galactic center, and next generation Galactic models need to be updated in this respect, and (3) the Local arm is most probably an inter-arm structure, similar to what we see in several external spirals, like M 74. Finally, the impact of Gaia and LAMOST in this field will be briefly discussed as well.
Thick disks appear to be common in external large spiral galaxies and our own Milky Way also hosts one. The existence of a thick disk is possibly directly linked to the formation history of the host galaxy and if its properties is known it can constrain models of galaxy formation and help us to better understand galaxy formation and evolution. This brief review attempts to highlight some of the characteristics of the Galactic thick disk and how it relates to other stellar populations such as the thin disk and the Galactic bulge. Focus has been put on results from high-resolution spectroscopic data obtained during the last 10 to 15 years.
This review will attempt to draw a state of the art observational picture of the Galactic bulge. The main chemical, kinematic and evolutionary properties of the gas and stellar populations in the barred bulge and towards the Galactic center region will be discussed in the context of the possible formation scenarios. Future perspectives for our comprehension of the complex structure of the Galactic bulge from ongoing and foreseen optical and infrared surveys will be also highlighted.
Variable stars have a unique part to play in Galactic astronomy. Among the most important of these variables are the Cepheids (types I and II), the RR Lyraes and the Miras (O- and C-rich). The current status of the basic calibration of these stars in their roles as distance, structure and population indicators is outlined and some examples of recent applications of these stars to Galactic and extragalactic problems are reviewed. The expected impact of Gaia on this type of work is discussed and the need for complementary ground based observations, particularly large scale near-infrared photometry, is stressed.
In and around the Milky Way halo there are a number of low mass low luminosity dwarf galaxies. Several of these systems have been studied in great detail. I describe recent photometric and spectroscopic studies of the Sculptor dwarf spheroidal galaxy made as part of the DART survey of nearby dwarf spheroidal galaxies.
Large photometric or spectroscopic surveys are used to sort stars into populations and define the main trends that characterise them, as diagnostics of their origin. Stars falling off the trends defined by the ‘normal’ stars are called ‘peculiar’ and typically eliminated in discussions of Galactic structure and evolution. In our programme on extremely metal-poor halo giants, we have recently focused on the small subgroup that is strongly enhanced in r-process elements, asking whether the chemical peculiarity is intrinsic to these stars or due to local surface pollution caused by mass transfer from a binary companion. Precise radial-velocity monitoring over several years turns out to disprove the binary hypothesis and has led to new insight in the processes of chemical enrichment in the early Galactic halo. An ongoing analogous programme on carbon-enhanced metal-poor giants is briefly described at the end.
Carbon and oxygen abundances in F and G main-sequence stars ranging in metallicity from [Fe/H] = −1.6 to +0.5 are determined from a non-LTE analysis of C i and O i atomic lines in high-resolution spectra. Both C and O are good tracers of stellar populations; distinct trends of [C/Fe] and [O/Fe] as a function of [Fe/H] are found for high- and low-alpha halo stars and for thick- and thin-disk stars. These trends and that of [C/O] provide new information on the nucleosynthesis sites of carbon and the time-scale for the chemical enrichment of the various Galactic components.
Chemical diversity among metal-poor stars in the old stellar components in the Milky Way (MW), namely the thick disk and stellar halo, provides clues to understanding the early chemodynamical evolution of our Galaxy. We present our results on a homogeneous chemical abundance analysis for nearby metal-poor stars likely belonging to the MW thick disk, inner and outer stellar halos. Abundances of alpha, sodium, iron-peak and neutron-capture elements in the sample stars have been estimated using high-resolution (R 50000) spectra obtained with the High Dispersion Spectrograph mounted on the Subaru Telescope. The derived abundances are used to examine differences and similarities in elemental abundance ratios among the kinematically defined thick disk, inner and outer halo subsamples in the metallicity range of −3.3 < [Fe/H] < −0.5. We show that, in the metallicity range of [Fe/H] < −2, the three subsamples are similar in most of the elemental abundances. On the other hand, in the higher metallicities, particularly in [Fe/H] > −1.5, the thick disk and the inner/outer halo subsamples show systematically different abundance ratios for some elements including alpha, sodium, zinc and europium. A modest difference in the sodium and zinc abundances between the inner- and outer halo subsamples is also identified. The observed distinct abundances of some elements among the three subsamples implies that their constituent stars originally formed in progenitor systems that have experienced different star formation and chemical enrichment histories.
We present results of chemical abundance study of a few representative stellar streams of Galactic thick and thin discs. Arcturus stream, which was proposed to have an extragalactic origin, and a recently detected stream called AF06 were studied. Results show a range of metallicity, age and abundance pattern that are consistent with those of Galactic thick disc component. We found similar results for AF06. The abundance and age results unambiguously rule out the possibility that the member stars are vestiges of open clusters. Abundance results of a sample of stars of Sirius and Hercules streams combined with the kinematics show that both the streams belong to the thin disc component. Also, results rule out these are remnants of open clusters. It is likely these streams formed insitu due to perturbations caused by non-axisymmetric components such as bar or spirals.
It is now generally believed that the Galaxy was formed through hierarchical merging, which means that different components of the Galaxy may have experienced different chemical evolution histories. Since alpha elements are mainly produced by core collapse supernovae, they are closely associated with the star formation history of the Galaxy. In this regard, Galactic components with different alpha elemental abundance patterns may show different behaviors in beryllium abundances since the production of beryllium is correlated with the cosmic rays and thus the supernovae. A recent study by Nissen & Schuster (2010) has revealed the existence of two distinct halo populations in the solar neighborhood based on the alpha elemental abundances and kinematics of 94 dwarf stars. We determined beryllium abundances for some of these stars and find systematic differences in beryllium abundances between these two halo populations. Our results consolidate the conclusion of two distinct halo populations in the solar neighborhood. Our results also show that beryllium abundance is a very good indicator of star formation rate, and could be used to trace the substructures of the Galactic halo.
In order to understand the Barium abundance distribution in the Galactic disk based on Cepheids, one must first be aware of important effects of the corotation resonance, situated a little beyond the solar orbit. The thin disk of the Galaxy is divided in two regions that are separated by a barrier situated at that radius. Since the gas cannot get across that barrier, the chemical evolution is independent on the two sides of it. The barrier is caused by the opposite directions of flows of gas, on the two sides, in addition to a Cassini-like ring void of HI (caused itself by the flows). A step in the metallicity gradient developed at corotation, due to the difference in the average star formation rate on the two sides, and to this lack of communication between them. In connection with this, a proof that the spiral arms of our Galaxy are long-lived (a few billion years) is the existence of this step. When one studies the abundance gradients by means of stars which span a range of ages, like the Cepheids, one has to take into account that stars, contrary to the gas, have the possibility of crossing the corotation barrier. A few stars born on the high metallicity side are seen on the low metallicity one, and vice-versa. In the present work we re-discuss the data on Barium abundance in Cepheids as a function of Galactic radius, taking into account the scenario described above. The [Ba/H] ratio, plotted as a function of Galactic radius, apparently presents a distribution with two branches in the external region (beyond corotation). One can re-interpret the data and attribute the upper branch to the stars that were born on the high metallicity side. The lower branch, analyzed separately, indicates that the stars born beyond corotation have a rising Barium metallicity as a function of Galactic radius.
The advent of large spectroscopic surveys of the Galaxy offers the possibility to compare Galactic models to actual measurements for the first time. I have developed a tool for the comprehensive comparison of any large data set to the predictions made by models of the Galaxy using sophisticated statistical methods, and to visualise the results for any given direction. This enables us to point out systematic differences between the model and the measurements, as well as to identify new (sub-)structures in the Galaxy. These results can then be used to improve the models, which in turn will allow us to find even more substructures like stellar streams, moving groups, or clusters. In this paper I show the potential of this tool by applying it to the RAdial Velocity Experiment (RAVE, Steinmetz 2003) and the Besançon model of the Galaxy Robin et al. 2003.
MilkyWay@home is a volunteer computing project that allows people from every country in the world to volunteer their otherwise idle processors to Milky Way research. Currently, more than 25,000 people (150,000 since November 9, 2007) contribute about half a PetaFLOPS of computing power to our project. We currently run two types of applications: one application fits the spatial density profile of tidal streams using statistical photometric parallax, and the other application finds the N-body simulation parameters that produce tidal streams that best match the measured density profile of known tidal streams. The stream fitting application is well developed and is producing published results. The Sagittarius dwarf leading tidal tail has been fit, and the algorithm is currently running on the trailing tidal tail and bifurcated pieces. We will soon have a self-consistent model for the density of the smooth component of the stellar halo and the largest tidal streams. The N-body application has been implemented for fitting dwarf galaxy progenitor properties only, and is in the testing stages. We use an Earth-Mover Distance method to measure goodness-of-fit for density of stars along the tidal stream. We will add additional spatial dimensions as well as kinematic measures in a piecemeal fashion, with the eventual goal of fitting the orbit and parameters of the Milky Way potential (and thus the density distribution of dark matter) using multiple tidal streams.
Resonances with spiral density waves or the Galactic bar can cause structure in local velocity distributions (also known as phase space). Because resonances are narrow, it is possible to place tight constraints on a pattern speed or the shape of the underlying gravitational potential.
Interference between multiple spiral patterns can cause localized bursts of star formation and discontinuities or kinks in the spiral arm morphology. Numerical simulations suggest that boundaries between different dominant patterns in the disk can manifest in local velocity distributions as gaps that are associated with specific orbital periods or angular momentum values. Recent studies have detected age gradients that may be associated with the appearance of spiral features such as armlets and spurs.
When patterns grow or vary in speed, resonances can be swept through the disk causing changes in the velocity distributions. Evidence of resonance capture or resonance crossing can be used to place constraints on the past history of patterns in the disk. The X-shaped Galactic bulge may have been caused by stars captured into vertical resonance with the Bar.
Disturbances in the Galactic disk, such as from a past merger, can cause an uneven distribution of disk stars in action angles. Subsequently the stellar distribution becomes more tightly wound in phase space. Phase wrapping can cause a series of shell like features in either real space or in a local velocity distribution. The spacing between features is dependent on the time since the disturbance.
Equilibrium dynamical models are essential tools for extracting science from surveys of our Galaxy. We show how models can be tested with data from a survey before the survey's selection function has been determined. We illustrate the application of this method by presenting some results for the RAVE survey. We extend our published analytic distribution functions to include chemistry and fit the chosen functional form to a combination of the Geneva–Copenhagen survey (GCS) and a sample of G-dwarfs observed at z ~ 1.75 kpc by the SEGUE survey. By including solid dynamics we are able to predict the contribution that the thick disc/halo stars surveyed by SEGUE should make to the GCS survey. We show that the measured [Fe/H] distribution from the GCS includes many fewer stars at [Fe/H] < −0.6 than are predicted. The problem is more likely to lie in discordant abundance scales than with incorrect dynamics.
Despite the recent advancements in the field of galaxy formation and evolution, fully self-consistent simulations are still unable to make the detailed predictions necessary for the planned and ongoing large spectroscopic and photometric surveys of the Milky Way disc. These difficulties arise from the very uncertain nature of sub-grid physical energy feedback within models, affecting both star formation rates and chemical enrichment. To avoid these problems, we have introduced a new approach which consists of fusing disc chemical evolution models with compatible numerical simulations. We demonstrate the power of this method by showing that a range of observational results can be explained by our new model. We show that due to radial migration from mergers at high redshift and the central bar at later times, a sizable fraction of old metal-poor, high-[α/Fe] stars can reach the solar vicinity. This naturally accounts for a number of recent observations related to both the thin and thick discs, despite the fact that we use thin-disc chemistry only. Within the framework of our model, the MW thick disc has emerged naturally from (i) stars born with high velocity dispersions at high redshift, (ii) stars migrating from the inner disc very early on due to strong merger activity, and (iii) further radial migration driven by the bar and spirals at later times. A significant fraction of old stars with thick-disc characteristics could have been born near the solar radius.
Stellar yields are a key ingredient in chemical evolution models. Stars with masses as low as 0.9M⊙, which have an age less than that of our Galaxy at low metallicity, can contribute to the chemical evolution of elements. Stars less than about 8–10M⊙ experience recurrent mixing events that can significantly change the surface composition of the envelope. Evolved stars are observed with surface enrichment in carbon, nitrogen, fluorine, and heavy elements synthesized by the slow neutron capture process (the s-process). These stars release their nucleosynthesis products through stellar outflows or winds, in contrast to massive stars that explode as core-collapse supernovae. Here I review stellar yields for stars up to 10M⊙, including a brief discussion of their uncertainties and shortcomings. Finally, I discuss efforts by various groups to address these issues and to provide homogeneous yields for low and intermediate-mass stars covering a broad range of metallicities.
We review the recent results of the nucleosynthesis yields of massive stars. We examine how those yields are affected by some hydrodynamical effects during the supernova explosions, namely, explosion energies from those of hypernovae to faint supernovae, mixing and fallback of processed materials, asphericity, etc. Those parameters in the supernova nucleosynthesis models are constrained from observational data of supernovae and metal-poor stars. The elemental abundance patterns observed in extremely metal-poor stars show some peculiarities relative to the solar abundance pattern, which suggests the important contributions of hypernovae and faint supernovae in the early chemical enrichment of galaxies. These constraints on supernova nucleosynthesis are taken into account in the latest yield table for chemical evolution modeling.
The predictions of our chemodynamical simulations from cosmological initial conditions are as follows: The disk formed Inside-out. Metallicity radial and vertical gradients exist, but no [α/Fe] radial gradient. Metallicity radial gradient is steeper at higher redshifts. The [α/Fe]-[Fe/H] relation is caused by the delayed enrichment of Type Ia supernovae (not with long lifetimes, but with the metallicity effect). The bulge formed through the assembly of small gas-rich galaxies at high redshifts. [α/Fe] is higher, [Mn/Fe] is lower, [(Na, Al)/Fe] are higher than the disk. Metallicity and [α/Fe] vertical gradients exist, which is caused by the increase of metal-rich and low [α/Fe] populations at lower latitudes. Bars may form later, which may show boxy and cylindrical rotation. Half of thick disk stars (kinetically selected) come from minor mergers. [α/Fe] is higher, and [Mn/Fe] is lower than the thin disk, but [(Na, Al, Cu, Zn)/Fe] are lower than the bulge. There are metallicity vertical, weak metallicity radial, and no [α/Fe] radial gradients. It would be interesting to compare the predictions with other models such as radial mixing, disk heating, and clumpy disks.
For the solar neighborhood, the frequency distributions of elements from oxygen to zinc are in excellent agreement not only for the average values but also for the scatter. In chemodynamical simulations, chemical enrichment takes place inhomogeneously, and the scatter originates from a combination of various effects - mergers, migration, and in-situ. The inhomogeneous enrichment is important in reproducing observed nitrogen abundances, and also in understanding elemental abundance patterns of dwarf spheroidal galaxies and carbon-enhanced damped Lyman α systems.