The Milky Way and the Local Group

The research interest of the Milky Way and the Local Group team is centered on the study and analysis of the formation, evolution and structure of the Milky Way and the galaxies populating the Local Volume.

The spatial scale corresponding to the volume of universe called "the Milky Way and the Local Group" is conditioned by the spatial resolution of our telescopes. More than a concrete physical scale, it can be considered as the spatial volume where our telescopes are able to resolve galaxies into stars and where a number of techniques developed to study the Milky Way from the inside can be applied to extragalactic objects.

The current scientific objectives of the team span from the stellar to Local Group scales

  • Structure and Evolution of Molecular Clouds
  • Fractal structure of the star formation processes
  • High-mass star formation and massive star clusters
  • Low-mass star formation and exoplanets
  • Pre-Main Sequence stars in open clusters
  • Nuclear star clusters in neighbor galaxies
  • Nuclear star cluster at the center of the Milky Way
  • Three dimensional structure of the galactic disk
  • Analysis of the stellar component of two extragalactic surveys (ALHAMBRA & OTELO)

Observational and theoretical tools are used to these aims. The scientific team presents a high expertise and skill in several observational techniques:

  • CCD photometry in the optical range
  • Two-dimensional infrared photometry
  • Long-slit and three-dimensional spectroscopy in the optical and IR ranges
  • Differential photometry
  • Astrometry
  • Adaptive optics
  • Interferometry
  • Lucky imaging

Space and ground based telescopes ranging from 1 m to the 8-10 m classes are currently used by the team in national and international observatories:

  • Sierra Nevada Observatory (Spain)
  • Calar Alto Observatory (Spain)
  • Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (Spain)
  • La Silla (Chile)
  • Paranal (Chile)
  • Las Campanas (Chile)
  • Hubble Space Telescope

In addition, members of the group have developed and are developing different codes for the analysis of the complex structure of the star formation processes, the influence of different variables on the observed Initial Mass Function, and the determination of the stellar intrinsic parameters from multicolor photometry for main sequence stars (CHORIZOS) and pre-main sequence stars. 

The group is also involved in the design and development of astronomical instruments as well as in the building of pipelines which will help us to reach our scientific goals

  • PANIC, the new PAnoramic Near-Infrared Camera for the 2.2m and 3.5m telescopes on Calar Alto Observatory.
  • OSIRIS, an imaging system (tunable filters) and a low-resolution long-slit and multi-object spectrograph for the GTC (Gran Telescopio Canarias).
  • ASTRALUX, a new, simple instrument developed at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, has demonstrated at Calar Alto its ability to register extremely sharp astronomical images, comparable in resolution to views obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope.
  • WSO (ISSIS - Imaging and Slitless Spectroscopy Instrument for Surveys), the camera instrument that Spain is building for the World Space Observatory (WSO), the ultraviolet space telescope that will be launched within the next five years.