image: ESA/Gaia/DPAC
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Research

The orbits of globular clusters (in blue) and dwarf galaxies around the Milky Way as derived from Gaia DR2 (Credits: Helmi et al. (2018), M. Breddels, ESA/Gaia/DPAC).

My main research interests are in "Near-field cosmology", that is in galaxy evolution and dynamics, with emphasis on what can be learned from the nearby Universe, and in particular from our own Galaxy and its satellites. The assembly process of a galaxy leaves imprints in the present-day spatial distribution, motions, ages and chemical abundances of its stars. One of the main goals of my research has been to develop a theoretical understanding of these fossil signatures and to use observational data to recover them and thereby reconstruct the formation history of our Galaxy.

The recently launched European Space Agency's satellite, Gaia, is currently measuring accurately the spatial distribution, kinematics and properties of a billion stars in the Milky Way. This unparalleled new dataset is allowing us to address the most fundamental questions about our Galaxy's history and dynamics. With the revolutionary new understanding of a typical galaxy like ours that Gaia is already delivering, we are obtaining unique insights on the process of galaxy formation and on the nature and role of dark matter, two of the most urgent open questions in modern Astrophysics.

My group's research presently covers three areas: the merger history of the Galaxy (combining kinematics and chemistry); the dynamics of the different Galactic components, including the halo and the disk with the aim of constraining the spatial distribution and granularity of dark matter, and the kinematics and dynamics of globular clusters and dwarf galaxies. We are currently also strongly involved in Gaia's data validation work, and in two new multi-object spectrographs: WEAVE on the WHT (La Palma) and 4most on VISTA (ESO, Chile).

Major research collaborations

RAVE
Gaia
WEAVE
4MOST

Publications

Theses

Amina Helmi
H. Tian
T. K. Starkenburg
J. T. Buist
G. Monari
M. Breddels
C. Vera-Ciro
E. Starkenburg
F. Gomez
Y. S. Li
A. Villalobos
G. Battaglia

Galactica research group

Throughout the years, our group has had many different members, with origin in twelve different countries. It has been supported by NOVA, a Vidi grant, a European Research Council Starting Grant, and currently by a Vici grant (as part of the Netherlands Innovative Research Grant Scheme)

custom image Photograph of some past and present members of the group taken after my Inaugural Lecture in 2014.

Group members

Postdocs

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D. Masari link
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L. Posti link
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J. Veljanoski link

PhD students

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J. Hagen link
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H. Koppelman link

Former group members

Postdocs

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M. Breddels
2013-2018
Current position: Freelance developer / consultant / data scientist, Groningen, The Netherlands
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S. Jin link
2011-2014
Current position: Deputy Project Scientist, Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, UK
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R. Sanderson
2011-2014
Current position: Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania, USA
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M. T. Antoja
2010-2012
Current position: Marie Curie postdoc, University of Barcelona, Spain
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L. Sales
2007-2010
Current position: Assistant professor, University of California, Riverside
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M. Smith
2004-2007
Current position: Professor, Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, China

PhD students

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H. Tian
2017
Current position: Postdoc at National Astronomical Observatories of China, Beijing, ChinaThesis:“Hide and Seek in the Halo of the Milky Way: Substructure Recovery”
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T. K. Starkenburg
2016
Current position: Research Fellow, CCA, Flatiron Institute, New York, USAThesis:“The impact of dark satellites on dwarf galaxies in a ΛCDM universe”
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J. T. Buist
2015
Current position: Data Scientist/Pricing Analyst at Achmea Schadeverzekeringen, Deventer, The NetherlandsThesis:“Dynamical modelling of stellar streams in a cosmological setting”
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G. Monari
2014
Current position: Postdoctoral Researcher at Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP), GermanyThesis:“The dynamical effects of the bar on the Galactic thin and thick disks”
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M. Breddels
2013
Current position: Freelance developer / consultant / data scientist, The NetherlandsThesis:“Orbit-based dynamical models of Local Group dwarf spheroidal galaxies”
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C. Vera-Ciro
2013
Current position: Assistant professor in the Computer Science program of the Universidad de Medellin, ColombiaThesis:“The Local Group in LCDM - Shapes and masses of dark halos”
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E. Starkenburg
2011, with E. Tolstoy
Current position: Karl Schwarzschild Fellow, Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP), Potsdam, Germany (head of the Emmy Noether Research Group “The Early Milky Way”)Thesis:“Galactic archaeology in and around the Milky Way”
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F. Gomez
2010
Current position: Staff member, Departamento de Física y Astronomía, Universidad de La Serena, La Serena, ChileThesis:“Milky Way archaeology and the dynamical signatures of mergers”
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Y. S. Li
2009
Current position: KIAA Fellow, The Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Beijing, ChinaThesis:“Local Group galaxies in a ΛCDM Universe”
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A. Villalobos
2009
Current position: Former Postdoctoral Fellow at INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Trieste, ItalyThesis:“Simulations of the formation of thick discs in galaxies”
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G. Battaglia
2007, with E. Tolstoy
Current position: Ramon y Cajal fellow at Istituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, Tenerife, SpainThesis:“Chemistry and kinematics of stars in Local Group galaxies”