MEASURING THE MILKY WAY WITH VARIABLE STARS
Date & Time: Saturday, April 6, 2019, 10:30 am – 1:00 pm
Speakers: Dr. Nina Hernitschek, Postdoctoral Researcher, California Institute of Technology
Grade Levels: 7-12
Until about 100 years, scientists were very unsure about our position in the universe. Since then, many studies – beginning with Edwin Hubble – revealed the basic structure of our galaxy, the Milky Way, and the position of our star, the Sun, therein. Nowadays, every night large telescopes around the world, as well as space-based telescopes obtain a flood of new astronomical data. This opens up many opportunities for nowadays astronomers. How are these data gathered and processed? What do these data tell us about the Milky Way?
We will explore various techniques astronomers and astrophysicists use to learn about the stars in our Milky Way, their creation, their evolution and how they formed the Milky Way we see today. We will use the example of a modern so-called all-sky survey that can trace stars many light years away, to not only explain how our Milky Way is structured, but also to show how modern astronomers work to gather those data and to process them using state-of-the-art computing techniques (so-called machine learning) to reveal their hidden structure.