This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows remarkable structures in a galaxy cluster around an object called LRG-4-606. LRG stands for Luminous Red Galaxy, and is the acronym given to a large collection of bright red galaxies found in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). These objects are mostly massive elliptical galaxies composed of huge numbers of old stars. It is sobering to contemplate the sheer number of stars that this image must contain — hundreds of billions — but it also features one of the strangest phenomena known to astronomers. This particular red galaxy and its surrounding galaxies happen to be positioned so that their strong gravitational field has a dramatic effect. Left of centre in the picture, blue galaxies in the background have been stretched and warped out of shape into narrow, pale blue arcs. This is because of an effect called gravitational lensing. The galaxy cluster has such a strong gravitational field that it is curving the fabric of space and amplifying the starlight from much more distant galaxies. Gravitational lensing normally creates elongated arcs and here, unusually, the alignment of the galaxies has made the separate arcs combine to form a half-circle. This picture was assembled from a collection of exposures in visible and near infrared light taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. The field of view is approximately 3 by 3 arcminutes.

“The goal of Milkyway@Home is to create a highly accurate three dimensional model of the Milky Way galaxy (the dark matter in it) using data gathered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.”

MilkyWayContrast stream

“MilkyWay@home is a collaboration between the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute‘s departments of Computer Science and Physics, Applied Physics and Astronomy and is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation. It is operated by a team that includes astrophysicist Heidi Jo Newberg and computer scientists Malik Magdon-Ismail, Bolesław Szymański and Carlos A. Varela.” (src: wiki)

MilkyWay@home sounds very interesting:

  • “create a highly accurate three dimensional model of the Milkyway galaxy using data gathered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey”.
  • sounds like a “google maps” of the milky ways? (hope it will be Open Source and Open Data!)
  • COOL! 🙂 make your server work on that! GNU Linux way! 🙂

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Astronomy:


who is behind this: AHA!

hint: it might run much more efficient on GPUs than CPUs!

Heidi Newberg

Professor, Department of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy

heidi newberg

National Geographic picture – 10/1999

Picture in Glamour – 6/2002

Dear MilkyWay@home supporter,

The good news is, we made some great progress this past year. We have pushed out new and better analysis software that does a better job of

measuring the stellar density in the Milky Way, and can run simulations of dwarf galaxies disrupting the Milky Way. This new software, along with your crunching power (thank you!) has allowed us to make several new discoveries that are small steps towards our long-term goal of mapping the stellar density of the outer parts of the Milky Way (called the stellar halo) and figuring out how all of the dark matter is distributed in the Milky Way galaxy. We managed to implement on-line badges for those who contribute their computing cycles (and electricity) to our project. We can’t do it without you guys.

We will be losing our senior group members (Matt Newby and Jef Thompson) at the end of this summer, but we have some great new students

(welcome Sidd Shelton and Maia Marchetti) stepping in. That is life in the university – students come, learn, grow, contribute, and leave. Our policy is: students who leave are required to answer questions from my students for the rest of their lives. That is how we keep continuity in this program.

The low point this year came last month when I was informed that the US National Science Foundation would not renew my grant for

MilkyWay@home this year. It was quite a blow, but it is becoming more and more common for productive scientists to lose their funding, at least for a time. I plan to submit additional funding proposals over the next year, and hopefully we have federal funding again in the future. But for now I am feeling like Jodie Foster in the movie Contact. I need to find private funding to keep my program alive.

If you are financially able and willing to help us find dark matter in the Milky Way, I would really appreciate your help. Please check out our

fundraising page and help us fund what I hope is a gap year.

Best Wishes,

Heidi Jo Newberg

see some pictures: Milkyway@home Science Summary.pdf

Future Plans

In the future, we hope to extend MilkyWay@home’s ability to model progenitors. We are currently working on extending the current algorithms to allow for the modeling of multiple dwarf galaxies. In doing so, we introduce many new parameters to be optimized. To constrain these parameters data from multiple tidal streams must be used. Therefore, we must also extend to allow for the use of data from multiple streams. We are also working on expanding GPU utilization.
The current best model for the Milky Way potential is that of a triaxial halo, though this model has the Galaxy rotating on the intermediate axis. Once we are able to simulate multiple dwarf galaxies, constrained by multiple streams, we can test more physical potential models for the Milky Way.

Links & Papers (PDFs):

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