A paradigm change in the making: the origin and evolution of the Radcliffe Wave

Supervisor: João Alves in collaboration with Stefan Meingast (Dept. of Astrophysics), Catherine Zucker and Alyssa Goodman, (Dept. Astronomy, Harvard University)

Funding Situation: supervisor has secured funding

Project outline: The current model for the structure of the local Milky Way is in crisis. Data from the ESA Gaia mission has overthrown the 150-year-old paradigm for the organization of star-forming gas in the local neighborhood. In the new view, local star-forming regions are connected by umbilical-like lower-density gas filaments. They are part of a new organizational unit: undulating, coherent, and narrow Galactic-scale gas structures, like the recently discovered Radcliffe Wave (http://tinyurl.com/radwave), likely associated with spiral arms as seen in other galaxies. This PhD project, connected with the project “The 3D space motion of the local Interstellar Medium”, seizes this opportunity and addresses the following general questions:

  • What is the origin and motion of Galactic-scale gas structures such as the Radcliffe Wave?
  • How do star-forming regions form and disperse inside them?
  • Has the Solar System interacted with the Radcliffe Wave?

At the heart of this project lies one critical measurement yet to be made: the local gas’s space motion. Knowing how gas moves in 3D space is to know its past and future path in the Galaxy, its momentum, and the forces acting on it and will represent a fundamental breakthrough in Interstellar Medium research. The PhD student will work with data from the ESA Gaia mission and the ESO VISIONS Public Survey, led by our group (https://visions.univie.ac.at) and part of a young, exploration-driven, and supportive group. The PhD candidate will become a crucial member of an ongoing collaboration with Harvard University.