A Blueprint for the Milky Way's Stellar Populations: The Power of Large Photometric and Astrometric Surveys

Deokkeun An, Timothy C. Beers

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Recent advances from astronomical surveys have revealed spatial, chemical, and kinematical inhomogeneities in the inner region of the stellar halo of the Milky Way. In particular, large spectroscopic surveys, combined with Gaia astrometric data, have provided powerful tools for analyzing the detailed abundances and accurate kinematics for individual stars. Despite these noteworthy efforts, however, spectroscopic samples are typically limited by the numbers of stars considered; their analysis and interpretation are also hampered by the complex selection functions that are often employed. Here we present a powerful alternative approach - a synoptic view of the spatial, chemical, and kinematical distributions of stars in the Milky Way based on large photometric survey databases, enabled by a well-calibrated technique for obtaining individual stellar metal abundances from broadband photometry. We combine metallicities with accurate proper motions from the Gaia mission along the prime meridian of the Galaxy, and find that various stellar components are clearly separated from each other in the metallicity versus rotation-velocity space. The observed metallicity distribution of the inner-halo stars deviates from the traditional single-peaked distribution, and exhibits complex substructures comprising varying contributions from individual stellar populations, sometimes with striking double peaks at low metallicities. The substructures revealed from our less-biased, comprehensive maps demonstrate the clear advantages of this approach, which can be built upon by future multiband photometric surveys, and used as a blueprint for identifying the stars of greatest interest for upcoming spectroscopic studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA39
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2020

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