The Milky Way Laboratory

Fri, February 05, 2016

Colloquium image for website

Our home Galaxy, the Milky Way, is our closest laboratory for studying physical processes throughout the Universe.  Submillimeter observations of the cool, dense gas and dust in our Milky Way provide insights on universal processes including how stars form in both 'regular' and 'extreme' environments and how gas is organized on galactic scales.  On a tour through our Milky Way Laboratory, I will discuss 1) how we can use dense, filamentary molecular clouds, potential "Bones of the Milky Way," to trace our Galaxy's spiral structure, 2) how large surveys of our Galaxy have revealed that star clusters continue to accrete significant mass while they are forming, and 3) how observing our extreme, turbulent Galactic Center (the Central Molecular Zone; the inner few hundred parsecs of our Galaxy) can help us learn more about how gas is converted into stars during the peak epoch of cosmic star formation (z~2).