Scientific Rationale

The Milky Way is a unique testbed for our understanding of galaxy formation and evolution because it is the only galaxy for which we can study the properties to the highest level of detail and accuracy. Nonetheless, we still lack basic observational constraints on the structure and formation of the central Galactic components such as the bulge and the bar, as well as their interaction with the Galactic center. In fact, the study of the three-dimensional and dynamical structure of the central components of the Galaxy is strongly hampered by the high extinction towards the Galactic plane and by the extreme crowding of the innermost regions. These limitations are even more severe when studying regions located beyond the Galactic center. Although recent NIR and MIR surveys are unveiling for the first time the stellar content in these unexplored regions, a proper characterisation of their kinematics and chemical enrichment history still remains open.

This conference will gather a cohort of experts in different astrophysical fields (stellar populations, abundances and kinematics, ISM physics, Galactic models, astrostatistics) to address the following open questions:

  • How and where the dust extinction law changes across the Galaxy?
  • How extinction law variations affects our perception of the Galactic structure?
  • What are the most robust diagnostics to estimate and parametrise the extinction law?
  • How can ongoing and future large spectroscopic surveys help us in solving this challenges? e.g. are the optical/NIR diffuse interstellar bands (DIBs) solid diagnostics for the interstellar reddening?
  • Is there a continuous transition between the inner disk, the bar and the bulge?
  • Can we leverage Gaia to study highly obscured regions? (e.g. cross-calibrations of different stellar tracers)?
  • Is the chemical enrichment history of the Galactic center similar to the one of the Galactic bar and to the inner disk? e.g are the metallicity (iron, CNO, alpha-elements, s-,r-process elements) gradients increasing in the innermost Galactic region?
  • What is the impact of radial migrations on our understanding of the Galaxy?

Conference Topics

The conference will address the following topics:

  1. Global proprieties of the Milky Way
  2. The Bulge and the Bar: structure and chemical composition
  3. The Central Molecular Zone, the Nuclear Stellar Disk and Nuclear Star Cluster
  4. Future perspective from large surveys and space missions

We will have invited speaker to review the state of art on the structure, the stellar content, the gas content and the chemical composition of the Galactic components. These reviews will be used to trigger the panel discussions at the closure of each topic session. These panel discussions will allow us to make interdisciplinary connections and, in turn, to point out which improvements - in methods, models and observing facilities- are needed in order to overcome the current limitations.


The conference will be hosted at Haus der Astronomie, in Heidelberg.


Transportation to the conference venue from the city will be provided


This conference is funded by the SFB 881 "The Milky Way System" project.