Welcome to our Lab

My research is in the general area of the formation of the Milky Way Galaxy and stellar populations.  I am particularly interested in improving the understanding of the old component of stars residing in the Galactic bulge.   As the principal investigator of the Bulge Radial Velocity Assay of RR Lyrae stars (BRAVA-RR), most of my current projects include analyzing the motions and properties of old stellar populations in the Galactic bulge.  My research projects involve combining observational spectra or images of stars with theoretical models to further our understanding of the build-up of the Milky Way Galaxy.

We are currently, for the first time, looking at how the old RR Lyrae stars are moving through the Galaxy. Here is a sneak preview of an orbit (Maertens, Kunder et al. 2018, in prep)
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Current News

July 2018:

The Space Science Review book entitled Astronomical Distance Determination in the Space Age (publisher Springer Nature) has published a chapter I wrote entitled “Impact of Distance Determinations on Galactic Structure.  II.  Old Tracers”.  It is 64 pages long, and it has taken me two years before it was accepted for publication.  This has been my most agonizing experience ever in publishing, and do not anticipate ever agreeing to write anything more than 20 pages again.

June 2018:

I was asked to give a press conference at the American Astronomical Society focusing on my most recent paper, that was published together with my P365 class here at SMU.

May 2018: 

My Astrophysics (P365) classes calculations of motions of stars through the Milky Way galaxy was accepted for publication.  We found that the globular cluster NGC 6441 has extra-tidal stars, in agreement with the notion that NGC 6441 was once more massive in the past and is slowly losing stars as it is traveling through the massive Milky Way Galaxy.

Apr 2018:

I was awarded a Murdock College Research Program for Natural Sciences Award to carry out the research project titled “Bulge Radial Velcoity Assay – RR Lyrae (BRAVA-RR) Survey: Mapping the Bulge with RR Lyrae Stars.” (2017321:MNL:2/22/2018)

M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, created by the will of the late Melvin. J. (Jack) Murdock, provides grants to organizations in five states of the Pacific Northwest—Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington—that seek to strengthen the region’s educational and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways. More information is available at www.murdocktrust.org.