The distribution and properties of stars in the Milky Way hold
information about the formation and evolution of the Galaxy.
Traditionally, these were measured in small samples of stars that were
often biased or did not extend far beyond the Solar neighborhood. With
the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, we can overcome these issues, and
directly map the number density, kinematics, and metallicity
distributions of stars over a representative portion of the Galaxy.
These maps allow us to characterize the global properties of the Milky
Way, identify infalling satellites and tidally disrupted remnants,
measure the scales of Galactic components, and observe the
relationships between various kinematic and physical properties. For
example, the latest maps of metallicity and kinematics reveal in
drammatic fashon the differing content of metals and different
rotational velocity distributions of disk and halo stars in our
Galaxy. Maps such as these put constraints on the structure and origin
of Galactic components, and set benchmarks and comparison points for
testing of future Milky Way formation models.
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