Physics Colloquium - Galaxy-scale pendulum experiments

Event Date: 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 4:00pm

Event Location: 

  • Broida 1640

Event Price: 


Jo Bovy, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ


For centuries, the gravitational acceleration on Earth was mapped using pendulums, which led to a greatly improved understanding of the Earth's structure and composition. In this talk, I will discuss how we can map the gravitational field of the Milky Way galaxy using populations of stars as simple 'pendulums'. I will describe recent progress in characterizing stellar populations using novel data and in the proper modeling of their dynamics; these advances allow unprecedented maps of the gravitational acceleration over a large part of the Milky Way's disk, which leads to new insights into the distribution of visible and dark matter in the central regions of the Milky Way. I will further discuss how these acceleration maps will be improved and extended using data from the recently launched Gaia satellite, which will observe the dynamics of up to one billion stars in the Milky Way.