Invited Talk - Plenary
Caroline Herschel, the hunt for faint features, and galactic archaeology
Ruprecht Karls-University Heidelberg
Caroline Herschel, originally intended to become a house maid, had a most unusual career during which she suffered many hardships and setbacks, but also considerable successes, first as a musician and later as a scientist. Eventually she became an internationally recognized and honored astronomer and the first woman to receive a regular salary for her astronomical research. A key research interest of her time was the search for faint, extended features in the sky - comets and nebulae - and she discovered quite a few of those. Today, we still search for faint nebulosities, particularly in the young fields of galactic archaeology and near-field cosmology. Using massive imaging, spectroscopic, and astrometric surveys, we try to uncover the faintest, least massive dwarf galaxies and and explore their role as building blocks of galaxy formation. We search for stellar tidal streams and remnants of disrupted galaxies to constrain the assembly history of more massive objects like our Milky Way. Moreover, we use special types of stars such as pulsating variables to uncover the ages, metallicities, and three-dimensional structure of the components of the Milky Way and nearby galaxies. I will present some highlights from these studies.