image: ESA/Gaia/DPAC
portrait picture Credit photograph: Sake Elzinga (NRC)

Prof. dr. Amina Helmi

I am a full professor at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute in Groningen. My main research interests are galaxy evolution and dynamics, with emphasis on what can be learned from the nearby Universe, and in particular from our own Galaxy.

The assembly process of a galaxy leaves imprints in the present-day spatial distribution, motions, ages and chemical abundances of its stars. For the Milky Way and its satellites we have direct access to this information for millions of individual stars. My research thus far has focused on characterizing these fossil signatures from a theoretical point of view, and on using observational data to recover those fossils and thereby reconstruct the formation history of our Galaxy. Besides Galactic archaeology, I am also interested on the nature of dark-matter. I have worked on the distribution of dark-matter around the Milky Way and its satellite galaxies using the motions of stars, and on predictions for direct (and indirect) detection.

I completed my PhD Thesis on The formation of the Galactic halo at Leiden Observatory in the year 2000, for which I received the Christiaan Huygens prize in 2004. In 2010 I was also awarded the Pastoor Schmeits prize in Astronomy. In 2003, I was awarded a VIDI grant ("The Milky Way: Rosetta stone of galaxy evolution"), in 2009 I received an ERC Starting Grant, and since 2015 a Vici grant provides support to my research group.

I was member of The Young Academy between 2007 and 2012. In 2016, I was elected member of the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities. Since 2017, I am member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). In 2019 I received the very prestigious Spinoza prize.

Media Highlights

Press release: Astronomers discover the giant that shaped the early days of our Milky Way

Press release: A snail shell structure in our part of the Milky Way

Edmond de Haro/iStock and ESA/Gaia/DPAC

Volkskrant: Gegevens van ruim een miljard sterren liggen ‘op straat’ dankzij ruimtetelescoop Gaia

NRC: We zijn stelsels rond de Melkweg kwijt.

Publication Highlights

The merger that led to the formation of the Milky Way inner stellar halo and thick disk Amina Helmi, Carine Babusiaux, Helmer H. Koppelman, Davide Massari, Jovan Veljanoski & Anthony G. A. Brown
Nature - volume 563 - issue - pages 85-88
A dynamically young and perturbed Milky Way disk T. Antoja, A. Helmi, M. Romero-Gomez, D.Katz, C. Babusiaux, R. Drimmel, D.W. Evans, F. Figueras, E. Poggio, C. Reyle, A. C. Robin, G. Seabroke, & C. Soubiran
Nature - volume 561 - issue - pages 360-362
Three-dimensional motions in the Sculptor dwarf galaxy as a glimpse of a new era Massari, D., Breddels, M. A., Helmi, A., Posti, L., Brown, A. G. A., & Tolstoy, E.
Nature Astronomy - volume 2 - issue - pages 156-161