Our Galaxy, the Milky Way, is a benchmark for understanding disk galaxies. It is the only galaxy whose formation history can be studied using the full distribution of stars from faint dwarfs to supergiants. The oldest components provide us with unique insight into how galaxies form and evolve over billions of years. The Galaxy is a luminous (L⋆) barred spiral with a central box/peanut bulge, a dominant disk, and a diffuse stellar halo. Based on global properties, it falls in the sparsely populated “green valley” region of the galaxy color-magnitude diagram. Here we review the key integrated, structural and kinematic parameters of the Galaxy, and point to uncertainties as well as directions for future progress. Galactic studies will continue to play a fundamental role far into the future because there are measurements that can only be made in the near field and much of contemporary astrophysics depends on such observations.
Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Pub Date:
- September 2016
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies
- 69 pages, 18 figures, LaTeX. See http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~jbh/S/ARAA_2016.pdf for published version