The Galactic Renaissance

Caltech Astronomy & Astrophysics

February 1-3, 2017


The Galactic Renaissance

A Symposium to Honor Professor Judy Cohen

We have just entered the heyday of resolved stellar populations in the Milky Way and its neighbors. It's a renaissance that SDSS and SEGUE started, but it's rapidly gaining steam. Current and impending spectrographs and surveys like Gaia, Gaia-ESO, APOGEE, GALAH, WEAVE, 4MOST, DESI, Subaru/PFS, and VLT/MOONS are super-charging what we know about millions of individual stars. The number of stars with measurements of distance, proper motion, temperature, surface gravity, metallicity, and detailed abundances will be staggering.


Professor Judy Cohen is someone who deserves credit for helping us get this far. Notably, she has changed how we think of globular clusters by finding variations of sodium in M3 and M13. She also found and characterized some of the oldest, most metal-poor stars in the Milky Way. Perhaps most important to all astronomers, regardless of field, she enabled the research of many hundreds of observers by designing and building spectrographs at Palomar and Keck Observatories. Judy is currently conducting research at the forefront of Milky Way structure and composition, and she is helping to shape the Galactic Archaeology portion of the Subaru/Prime Focus Spectrograph survey plan.


This symposium, held on the eve of the Galactic renaissance, will address several topics in Galactic astronomy:


  • How is Gaia changing our perception of the various components of the Milky Way, including beyond the disk?
  • What is the new state of the cosmic distance ladder? How do we relate the various components, like parallax, RR Lyrae, and the tip of the red giant branch?
  • How well do we know the mass, density profile, and shape of the Milky Way's dark matter halo?
  • How do we synthesize models of chemical and dynamical evolution in the Milky Way and other nearby galaxies?
  • How do we accelerate the chemical abundance revolution with 3-D and NLTE spectral analysis?
    • new approaches and methods
    • deriving the information from large data-sets
    • analyzing and interpreting this large volume of information

Science Organizing Committee

• Evan Kirby (chair, Caltech)
• Juna Kollmeier (Carnegie Observatories)
• Melissa Ness (MPIA)
• Branimir Sesar (MPIA), TBC
• Andy McWilliam (Carnegie Observatories)


Local Organizing Committee

• Bronagh Glaser
• Evan Kirby
• Judy McClain

Meeting information

Caltech is located in Pasadena, California. There are numerous lodging options, from budget to upscale.

Caltech's home page maintains a useful set of directions and maps for reaching campus by car or public transit.

Parking is available in the garage behind the Cahill Center for Astronomy & Astrophysics. The address of the garage is 1248 California Ave., Pasadena, CA 91125. A daily parking permit costs $6 and is available at kiosks in the garage. The Caltech parking website has more information.

Breakfast and lunch will be provided on both days of the meeting. For dinners, Pasadena has a lively restaurant scene. Lake Ave. is walking distance from campus and features many nice restaurants. Old Town Pasadena is 2 miles from the Cahill building and has world-class eateries. See Yelp for recommendations.