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Galaxy structure and evolution; the Milky Way Galaxy

The formation, evolution and death of stars is tightly linked to their environment and cannot be understood without taking the larger galactic scale into account. In this research line it is our aim to understand galaxies as the sum of their parts:

  • How does the Galactic environment influence the populations of stars that are formed?
  • How can we use resolved stellar populations to understand the larger scale structure?
  • What is the interplay between the stellar component (including clusters) and the non-stellar component in galaxies (clouds, magnetic fields, diffuse interstellar gas)?
  • What is the evolution of stellar clusters as a function of their location within the host galaxy.

Since we use resolved stellar populations and/or well-resolved galaxies for this, a consequence is that the focus lies on the Milky Way Galaxy and the Local Universe (d ≤ 20 Mpc). This directly ties to both the stellar evolution research as well as the gravitational wave sources. Use is made of LOFAR, HST, the ESO telescopes (VLT, VST in particular), ALMA, the ING telescopes (INT, WHT) and all major radio telescopes. In the next six years Gaia, JWST, the MeerLICHT/MeerKAT (evolving into SKA-Mid Phase 1) and the BlackGEM array together with the E-ELT MOSAIC and Micado instrument developments will be at the focus of this research line.

Goals for the next six years

  • Constructing a reliable model of the magnetic field structure in the Milky Way halo.
  • The ability to extract physical information on the Milky Way's interstellar environment from magnetic Faraday-depth structure in broad-band radio-polarimetric data.
  • Extending our understanding of Galactic stellar populations to nearby galaxies and applying the results from populations (e.g. on clusters and stellar bulges) in nearby galaxies to the Milky Way.
  • Using the Gaia results to understand the population of single and binary stellar systems in the Milky Way.
  • Using the data from the European Galactic Plane Surveys (EGAPS, a combination of the IPHAS, UVEX and VPHAS+ surveys) to understand the Galactic population of interacting binaries.
  • Understanding the links between explosive outcomes of (binary) evolution and observed transients.
  • Understanding the Type Ia supernovae progenitors, in particular the double degenerate channel.

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