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Science AMA Series: We are MilkyWayatHome and Prof. Heidi Newberg of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. We are here to talk to you about mapping the Milky Way and general astronomy. AUA!
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Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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r/Science AMAs
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Hi, everyone! We are the developers and scientists behind the MilkyWay@home distributed computing project and the LAMOST PLUS group, which collaborates with a Chinese-run spectroscopic survey that has so far produced over five million spectra of stars. Our research focuses on the study of the structure of the Milky Way, primarily in the galactic halo and disk. This includes tracing stellar tidal streams formed in dwarf galaxy merger events, measuring the distribution of dark matter, identifying disk structure, mapping stellar clouds like the Hercules-Aquila clouds, and much more. Our group has discovered new stellar tidal streams, created the most comprehensive characterizations of some of the Galaxy’s largest stellar tidal streams, and most recently discovered an oscillation pattern in the Milky Way disk that is thought to be caused by the interaction with small galaxies in the the halo of our galaxy. This disk-halo interaction could explain how spiral structure is formed and maintained. For more information about our work over the last year please have a look at our newsletter, with links to recent public lectures and news articles. Our group also actively participates in public outreach, most of which includes educating the public about our research. Since we run a crowd sourced distributed supercomputer, MilkyWay@home, we provide our volunteers with an explanation of what they are contributing towards. To this end, we enlist multiple social media outlets, have a brief science page on our website and provide links to all of our publications. Recently, Professor Newberg has been producing videos with her children designed to help young kids understand basic science concepts. These can be found on our YouTube channel. We have several members of the team here to answer your questions: Professor Heidi Newberg: The leader of MilkyWay@home and the LAMOST Plus groups at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Previously worked on the Super Nova Cosmology Project, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Dr. Jeff Carlin: Post-doc working in the LAMOST Plus group. Looks for galactic structure using 3D kinematics of stars and 3D position data. Charles Martin: PhD student working with the LAMOST Plus group. Discovered the Pisces stellar stream and now is focusing on the Hercules-Aquila cloud. Siddhartha Shelton: PhD student working with MilkyWay@home. Currently developing our N-body application and optimization methods. Jake Weiss: PhD student working with MilkyWay@home. Currently improving our stream finding algorithm to allow accurate, simultaneous fitting of many different streams. Paul Amy: PhD student working with MilkyWay@home. Preliminary study of modeling simultaneous Milky Way merger events with N-body simulations. Travis Desell: Former PhD Student who initially developed MilkyWay@Home and the evolutionary algorithms it uses. Now an assistant professor at University of North Dakota. We will begin answering questions as 12pm ET (9am PT). Anyone interested in joining our community of volunteers, or learning more about the MilkyWay@home project should check out our website, twitter, instagram, facebook page, and YouTube channel. Recently, both of these projects lost their National Science Foundation funding as grants becomes increasingly harder to get in astronomy. If you are interested in donating to our group please visit our fundraiser page. Edit: We are starting to answer questions now. We will be answering questions for the next two hours (until 2pm) and will probably pop back in throughout the night to answer more. Thanks for all of the great questions here so far. Edit 2: Hey everyone, thank you for all of the fantastic questions. Please remember to check out our website and follow us on social media to keep current with our work. We are going to take a break from answering questions, but we will be checking back in throughout the day to answer any new questions that might pop up. Sorry if we didn’t get to your question.