Schedule Oct 01, 2008
Finding Fossils on our Doorstep - Using the Milky Way as a Testbed for Galaxy Formation
Martin Smith (Univ. Cambridge)

The hierarchical growth scenario has emerged at the dominant theory for galaxy evolution. Whilst the general picture has reached a consensus, the next crucial step it is to identify and then analyse the signatures of this accretion. Rapid progress has been made in recent years thanks to modern large-scale surveys that have been mapping vast portions of the sky, recording a wealth of information on many millions of stars in the Milky Way. Such large databases have allowed researchers to identify accretion remnants at a startling pace, increasing the number of known Milky Way dSph companions by a factor of ~2 in the past three years alone. I will review the work that has been undertaken at the IoA in Cambridge, covering the numerous satellites, streams and structures that have been discovered with SDSS/SEGUE. These data have allowed us to extend the search for Milky Way satellites down to surface-brightness unreachable with previous surveys. The resulting ultra-low luminosity objects have important implications for our understanding of dark matter and galaxy formation on the smallest scales, while the discovery of streams can tell us about the formation and composition of the Milky Way halo. I will discuss the extensive follow-up work that has been carried out in order to better understand these new Milky Way satellites/structures and present the latest findings that have been made in recent months. Furthermore, I will describe new efforts to probe halo assembly through velocity space signatures using SEGUE spectra.

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