Archive for Gaia DR2

The Gaia Sausage

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on March 10, 2019 by telescoper

I had to undertake a top secret mission on Friday, which turned out to be much less exciting than I’d hoped, but at least it gave me an excuse to catch some of the Royal Astronomical Society Open Meeting followed by dinner at the RAS Club. I actually sat next to the Club Guest Michael Duff, the eminent theoretical physicist Michael Duff who gave a nice after-dinner speech.

An artist’s impression of the Gaia Sausage. The Gaia fork has not yet been proved to exist.

The last talk at the RAS Meeting was by Neil Wyn Evans of Cambridge University in the Midlands on the subject of the `Gaia Sausage‘ (which, as you can see, has its own Wikipedia page). The Gaia Sausage is so named because it is consists of a marked anisotropy of the velocity distribution of stars in Milk Way, which is elongated in the radial direction (like a sausage) indicating that many stars are on near-radial (i.e. low angular momentum orbits). This feature has been revealed by studying the second data release from Gaia.

The work Wyn described in his talk is covered by a nice press release from Cambridge University which links to no fewer than five articles on it and related topics, which can all be found on the arXiv here, here, here, here and here.

The most plausible explanation of the Gaia Sausage is that it is a consequence of a major collision between the Milky Way with a smaller galaxy containing about 109 stars about 8-10 billion years ago, as illustrated in this simulation.

I vote that this explanation of the velocity structure of the Milky Way should henceforth be called the Big Banger Theory.

Geddit?

I’ll get my coat.

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Stars Dance to the Music of Parallax

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on May 3, 2018 by telescoper

I thought I’d share this cute video from the European Space Agency about the Gaia mission I blogged about last week. It shows the effect of parallax, as measured by Gaia, on the positions of stars on the sky. As the Earth orbits the Sun stars do a dance in the sky; the shift in their position greater for closer stars rather than distant ones. To make the video, parallaxes measured by Gaia have been exaggerated by a factor 100,000 and proper motions have been speeded up by one trillion (1012). The effect is rather hypnotic, and gives a sense of the three-dimensional nature of the distribution of stars. At the end of the video you can see the effect of proper motions too, i.e. the change in position of a star due to its actual motion rather than that of the observer.