Unveiling the Milky Way Galaxy: dense gas structure and star formation

Project: Other

Project Details

Description

This project will use a new, large-scale radio spectral line survey of our Milky Way Galaxy (called ‘StarFISH’; Star Formation in the Southern Hemisphere) to address one of the most fundamental unsolved mysteries of our Universe –
one of the six big questions posed in the 2016 Decadal Plan for Australian Astronomy: How do stars and planets form?
As the lead investigator of the StarFISH survey, I ensured that it was purposefully designed to deliver critical details of the star formation process. This has only been possible due to significant innovation in the adopted observing mode,
which has produced a data-set of unprecedented quality and scope. The information gleaned from the 12 indicative star formation tracers (mapped simultaneously) will enhance our understanding of the nature of our Galaxy, producing results that are of the utmost importance to many branches of astronomy and astrophysics. Current and future studies of external galaxies depend critically on a detailed understanding of the small-scale processes that can only be determined in our own Milky Way (where we have the sensitivity and resolution to resolve individual objects). This work is thus key to understanding of the evolution of galaxies throughout the Universe.
This project capitalises on the unique StarFISH data-set to directly test competing theories of star formation and provide one of the clearest pictures of the structure of our Galaxy to date. Its scientific impact and scope will power a network of international collaborations – including (but not limited to) high-profile members of my survey team, currently 33 members based at 19 institutions world-wide. It will provide the next generation of astronomers with the skills to ensure Australia takes a leading role in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), in which Australia has significant financial and scientific investment, and will be used to recruit young Australians into STEM fields.
StatusActive
Effective start/end date20/05/2019/05/24