“Please Pardon Our Dust” with Doug Finkbeiner | CfA | Summary and Q&A

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September 19, 2016
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Harvard University
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“Please Pardon Our Dust” with Doug Finkbeiner | CfA

TL;DR

Harvard professor Doug Finkbiner discusses the importance of mapping dust in the Milky Way galaxy and reveals the challenges and insights gained from creating a 3D dust map.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is the main challenge in creating a 3D dust map of the Milky Way?

One of the main challenges is accurately determining the distance and amount of dust along each line of sight, especially in regions where the dust is clumped or there is a lack of observational data.

Q: How does dust impact the measurement of starlight and the cosmic microwave background?

Dust can scatter starlight, making stars appear redder and fainter than they actually are. It also affects the measurement of the cosmic microwave background, which is important for studying the early universe.

Q: How does the amount of dust in the Milky Way compare to the amount of gas?

There is about 100 times more gas than dust in the Milky Way galaxy. While gas is crucial for a variety of processes, such as star formation, dust is important for its optical properties and its effects on starlight.

Q: Are there any other methods for mapping dust in the universe?

Yes, there are other methods, such as measuring the far-infrared emission from dust or studying the correlation between dust and other cosmic components, like the neutral atomic hydrogen or carbon monoxide. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, and combining different approaches can provide a more comprehensive understanding of dust.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Dust in the Milky Way galaxy can scatter starlight and obstruct the view of distant objects, making it important to create accurate dust maps.

  • By studying observations of a billion stars, scientists at Harvard are working to create a 3D map of dust in the Milky Way.

  • This map will help in understanding the larger context of the universe and improve studies of the cosmic microwave background and large-scale structure.

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