Hawaii astronomers set out to create huge 3D map of Milky Way’s outer regions

Hawaii astronomers set out to create huge 3D map of Milky Way’s outer regions
Milky Way galaxy as seen from the Faulkes Telescope North on Haleakala. (Source: University of Hawaii)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maps of constellations and other celestial objects are nothing new.

But a group of University of Hawaii astronomers is working to create a 3D map of the stars in the outer regions of the Milky Way that they are hoping will be the largest and most impressive of its kind.

To make the map, astronomers will use data from ground-based telescopes and measure brightness variations over time for hundreds of thousands of distant stars in the Milky Way.

They will then use tools to precisely measure the stars' distances and place them in their specific 3D location. With the map, astronomers will be able to see how the galaxy formed and changed over time.

“Galactic astronomy has entered a golden era, due in large part to the European Gaia space mission. However, Gaia distances alone are limited to a relatively nearby region, so we had to come up with a different way to measure distances to make a full map of our home galaxy,” said UH astronomer Dan Huber.

UH received a grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct the project.

The grant also allows UH to fund a summer research program for Native Hawaiian college students as a way to increase interest in STEM fields.

“One of the most exciting aspects about this project is its interdisciplinary nature, combining different fields in astronomy to learn about our place in the cosmos and inspiring the next generation of scientists right here in Hawaii," said Huber.

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