June 13, 2012 - Galactic Archaeology - Dr. Else Starkenburg

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June 13, 2012 - Galactic Archaeology - Dr. Else Starkenburg, CIFAR Junior Fellow, UVic

There is much to be learnt from our own �cosmological backyard�: Only in our own Milky Way and some surrounding galaxies we can resolve and observe individual stars and learn from them about galaxies in general. Because stars keep a chemical fingerprint during their lives and also preserve kinematical information for long times, studying the present-day stars can teach us about the past.

In my talk I will discuss various topics in this area of Galactic archaeology. One of the topics will be the search for remnants of disrupted dwarf galaxies around the Milky Way, victims from a process called �cosmic cannibalism�. Subsequently we focus on the study of the smaller satellite galaxies that (still) survive the gravitational forces from the much bigger Milky Way they orbit. A surprising result from earlier work was that no very primitive stars were found in these small galaxies. I will show however that these stars are present and we can learn a lot from them.

Bio: Else Starkenburg is a CIFAR Junior Fellow working under the supervision of Cosmology and Gravity program Fellow Julio Navarro in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria. She completed her Ph.D. in 2011 at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, with Profs. Eline Tolstoy and Amina Helmi as her thesis advisors. Else also holds an M.Sc. in Physics and Astronomy and an M.A. in Theoretical Philosophy, both cum laude from the University of Groningen. She enjoys teaching and taking the opportunity to share her knowledge with wide audiences. She has delivered several public lectures, has been interviewed on Dutch national television and has authored articles in Dutch popular science magazines.

Else is investigating our astronomical �backyard�, as she is mainly interested in studying the history of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, and the smaller galaxies surrounding it. Because we can study these galaxies in much detail by looking at individual stars, it is a perfect place to test our theories on how galaxies form and evolve. She is currently working on modeling these galaxies with the help of computer simulations and comparing their predictions to observations. In her observational work, she is particularly interested in finding the oldest stars, since they provide us with valuable information on the early history of the Universe. During her Ph.D., she found that in the small galaxies around the Milky Way many more of these stars were �hiding� than was previously thought. In her future work, she will follow up on these findings by studying these stars in detail and comparing these studies to results of modeling to get a better grip on the big puzzle of how galaxies in the Universe form.


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