Weekly Space Hangout: October 7, 2019 – Marina Kounkel talks Stars and How They Form

Hosts:
Fraser Cain (universetoday.com / @fcain)
Sondy Springmann (@sondy)
Beth Johnson (@planetarypan)
Michael Rodruck (@michaelrodruck)

This week we welcome Dr. Marina Kounkel, a postdoctoral scholar in the Physics and Astronomy Department at the Western Washington University. Her research focuses on observing the dynamics of young stars.

Marina is co-author, with Kevin Covey (also from WWU,) of the peer-reviewed study titled “Untangling the Galaxy I: Local Structure and Star Formation History of the Milky Way” published in “The Astronomical Journal” in August 2019. Using a machine-learning algorithm to analyze motion and position data obtained by Gaia for over a billion stars, almost 2000 new star clusters and co-moving groups of stars – Sibling Stars if you will – have been identified, all of which lie within ~3000 light years from us.

In addition, as part of this study, the ages for hundreds of thousands of additional stars have been determined thus allowing star families to be tracked which provides further insight into how these stars have migrated throughout our galaxy. According to Marina, “Around half of these stars are found in long, string-like configurations that mirror features present within their giant birth clouds.” By studying these strings, we may gain insight into how the Milky Way has evolved.

To learn more about Marina, visit her website http://mkounkel.com/

Want to know more about Marina’s study and how these strings can further our understanding of galaxy evolution? Visit https://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Gaia/Gaia_untangles_the_starry_strings_of_the_Milky_Way

The study is also available for download here: https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.07709

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