Joined: 30 Apr 09
Joined: 25 Feb 13
So what we do is different than what Gaia is doing, although Gaia might make our job a bit easier. See Gaia is getting good position and velocity data for many of the stars in the Milky Way. However, what it doesn't do is look for any features or structure in these stars. This is what projects like MilkyWay@home attempt to do. More importantly, when these structures are found (ie the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy Tidal Stream) they need to be characterized so we can learn about their origin and how they got to where they are now.
Through the Separation application, we look for stellar streams like the Sagittarius stream in star density and then try to quantify its characteristics (think its width, position and orientation). With this information, we can run n-body simulations to attempt to recreate what we see to learn about the original galaxy that created the stellar stream and about our galaxy (the galaxy that caused it to become a stream).
With N-body, we have the ability to tune the potential of the Milky Way (aka the mass distribution) as well as the properties of the dwarf galaxy (mass of light and dark matter, evolution time) and then check the resulting stream against characterized stellar streams (like those from separation). This will allow us to probe the amount and distribution of dark matter in the Milky Way and the dwarf galaxies it is in the process of merging with.
Gaia does not spell the end of MilkyWay@home. Instead, it provides a new, rich data set for MilkyWay@home to continue its work with.
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