Extracting science from surveys of our Galaxy
Our knowledge of the Galaxy is being revolutionized by a series of photometric, spectroscopic and astrometric surveys. Already an enormous body of data is available from completed surveys, and data of ever-increasing quality and richness will accrue at least until the end of this decade. To extract science from these surveys, we need a class of models that can give probability density functions in the space of the observables of a survey – we should not attempt to ‘invert’ the data from the space of observables into the physical space of the Galaxy. Currently just one class of model has the required capability, the so-called ‘torus models’. A pilot application of torus models to understand the structure of the Galaxy’s thin and thick discs has already produced two signiﬁcant results: a major revision of our best estimate of the Sun’s velocity with respect to the local standard of rest, and a successful prediction of the way in which the vertical velocity dispersion in the disc varies with distance from the Galactic plane.
Volume 94, 2020
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