Tag Archives: streams

Big in Japan

I get to be on Japanese television!! NHK, Japan’s national public broadcasting organization, asked me for an interview about the evolution of globular clusters and the formation of tidal streams. I’m still excited about it, it was so much fun!


NHK produces a show called Cosmic Front Next, which covers one aspect of astronomy per episode. Each episode is one hour long and features several scientists. Since 2011, they have aired about one episode per week. That’s a lot of astronomy! Surprisingly, they haven’t covered globular clusters yet. So, I’m more than happy that I get to be on this episode of Season 5. Continue reading Big in Japan

Chaos in the Galaxy

N-body simulations of tidal streams formed by Galactic satellites on regular orbits (A & B), a weakly chaotic orbit (C), and a strongly chaotic (D). The orbits of the four satellites are quite similar in terms of eccentricity and apo/pericenters, but the resulting streams show (and amplify) the underlying chaos.

During Adrian Price-Whelan’s dissertation talk today at the winter meeting (AAS227) of the American Astronomical Society in Kissimmee, Florida,  I was reminded that I haven’t mentioned our publication here. Adrian went through a whole lot of effort and characterized regular and chaotic orbits in a typical galactic gravitational potential. Usually, orbits in such a potential can be broadly categorized into chaotic and non-chaotic orbits. Adrian looked at this distinction in terms of the streams that are formed by satellites on such orbits. Continue reading Chaos in the Galaxy

ESO Messenger


An article I just wrote with Steffen Mieske (ESO) about our Satellites and Streams in Santiago meeting earlier this year appeared today in the ESO Messenger. Go, check it out!

Stream Meeting Ringberg Castle

It’s been a while since I’ve found the time to give an update on my activities. The reason is that there are just too many these days! Let me start catching up by telling you about an amazing workshop that took place from July 19-24 in Germany.


Jo Bovy (CITA) and Hans-Walter Rix (MPIA) organized a stream meeting at Ringberg Castle, which is a conference venue owned by the Max Planck Society. It’s not just called ‘castle’, it really is one! And the conference participants are literally locked up on a mountain, giving the meetings up there a very intimate and focussed atmosphere. I was put in the tower – but with a view like that (above) it didn’t occur to me to complain!  Continue reading Stream Meeting Ringberg Castle

How to weigh the Milky Way

The Northern Hemisphere of the sky as seen by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Stellar streams stick out from the vast number of stars in this view, of which most lie within the Milky Way disk. The Palomar 5 stream is the densest of the stellar streams discovered so far and turned out to be a perfect scale and yardstick for our understanding of the Milky Way. (Credit: Ana Bonaca, Marla Geha and Nitya Kallivayalil with data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.)

The Milky Way consists of roughly 100 billion stars like our Sun, which form a huge stellar disk with a diameter of 100-200 thousand light years. The Sun is also part of this structure, hence, when we look into the sky, we look right into this gigantic disk of stars. The vast number of stars and the huge extent on the sky make it hard to measure fundamental quantities for the Milky Way – such as its weight.  Continue reading How to weigh the Milky Way

Satellites and Streams in Santiago 2015


What a week! The ESO workshop ‘Satellites and Streams in Santiago’ is over now, and I am still amazed by how flawless this meeting was. As announced here a while ago, I’ve been organizing this conference with Steffen Mieske (ESO) for the last few months. In the end we were 107 registered participants plus some 10 guests. The line-up was absolutely amazing, ESO Director General Tim de Zeeuw gave an opening address, and we heard keynote presentations from the who-is-who in the fields of satellites (Jorge Peñarrubia, Michelle Collins, Pavel Kroupa, Rodrigo Ibata, Vasily Belokurov, Gurtina Besla), streams (Steven Majewski, Amina Helmi, Aaron Romanowski) and the star-cluster/dwarf-galaxy interface (Oleg Gnedin, Jay Strader, Dougal Mackey, Michael Hilker, Anil Seth).  Continue reading Satellites and Streams in Santiago 2015

Stream fanning

streamfanning In my first year at Columbia I worked with grad student Sarah Pearson on an idea that Kathryn Johnston had while trying to find an orbit for Palomar 5 in a Law & Majewski potential. Wait what? Who’s Sarah, who’s Palomar 5, and what is a Law & Majewski potential?

Palomar 5 is a globular cluster in the halo of our Galaxy, the Milky Way. It is about 12 billion years old and consists of roughly 30,000 stars. The star cluster can be seen within the footprint of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. But even more fascinating is that we can also see a stream, consisting of at least as many stars, stretching out from the cluster along its orbit. This stream – there are actually two, one in the leading direction and one in the trailing direction – spans about 23 degrees on the sky, while being on average half a degree wide. That’s about the size of 50 full moons!  Continue reading Stream fanning