Revealing the Star Formation History of our Solar Neighborhood

Dr. Catherine Zucker (Space Telescope Science Institute)
Tuesday, March 8, 2022 - 11:00am

Given its proximity, the solar neighborhood has long been considered a fundamental laboratory for understanding how stars form. However, until very recently, this understanding was largely based on static “plane of the sky” views, making it extraordinarily challenging to build a 3D physical picture of dense gas and young stars using 2D integrated quantities. In this talk, I will discuss how new 3D spatial and dynamical constraints from Gaia, in combination with new data science and visualization techniques, have transformed our understanding of star formation near the Sun. In particular, I will show how “3D dust mapping” has provided never-before-seen 3D spatial views of the dense interstellar medium: redefining the structure of the Local Arm of the Milky Way, giving rise to previously undiscovered superbubbles, and constraining the detailed morphologies of individual molecular clouds at 1 pc resolution. Combining 3D dust mapping with the 3D space motions of young stars, I will show how we can reconstruct the star formation history of the solar neighborhood over the past 20 Myr, and in doing so, explain the origin of all very nearby star formation as being driven by the expansion of the Local Bubble. I will conclude by discussing new opportunities in future Gaia data releases, as well as the implications of our results for the theory and simulation communities.

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