a non-parametric model of the MW acceleration field

At Stars group meeting, I spoke about Ana Bonaca and my new paper looking at the information content of cold stellar streams in the Milky-Way halo. It is a huge document, with lots of results, but my absolute favorite is this: As we make the potential model for the Milky Way more flexible, each stream constrains each potential parameter less well. This is the issue with information studies: They depend strongly on the model flexibility! But something cool happens in the limit of very flexible potential model: Each stream appears to end up constraining the local acceleration field, local to the current position (not past position) of the stream. This has lots of consequences: One is that if this is true, we can just model each stream independently, in a flexible potential, and then interpolate the acceleration constraints they deliver with a flexible or non-parametric model as an interpolator! That would make stream fitting more tractable than it is now, not less (and most other ideas we have are computationally impossible at present).

In the discussion, Vasily Belokurov (Cambridge) suggested that we might get more information—and more global information—if we modeled the density of stars along the stream. He is reacting to the point that the Bonaca stream model is a stream-track model, not a full six-dimensional distribution function. Belokurov might be right; we should add something like this to the paper.

After I spoke, Jackie Faherty (AMNH) got us really excited about what Gaia has done and will do for nearby moving groups of young stars (like open clusters). She believes that several of the “connected components” in the Oh et al paper are new, previously undiscovered young clusters, and that Gaia DR2 might find hundreds of new members, going down the main sequence! That's amazing. I hope it's true.

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