Heather L. Morrison

Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, United States

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Publications (116)347.26 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We characterise the radial density, metallicity and flattening profile of the Milky Way's stellar halo, based on the large sample of 1757 spectroscopically confirmed giant stars from SDSS/SEGUE-2 after excising stars that were algorithmically attributed to apparent halo substructure (including the Sagittarius stream). Compared to BHB stars or RR Lyrae, giants are more readily understood tracers of the overall halo star population, with less bias in age or metallicity. The well-characterized selection function of the sample enables forward modelling of those data, based on ellipsoidal stellar density models, $\nu_* (R,z)$, with Einasto profiles and (broken) power laws for their radial dependence, combined with a model for the metallicity gradient and the flattening profile. Among models with constant flattening, these data are reasonably well fit by an Einasto profile of $n=3.1\pm 0.5$ with an effective radius $\rm r_{eff} = 15\pm2~$kpc and a flattening of $q=0.7\pm 0.02$; or comparably well by an equally flattened broken power-law, with radial slopes of $\alpha_{in}=2.1\pm 0.3$ and $\alpha_{out}=3.8\pm 0.1$, with a break-radius of $r_{break}=18\pm1$~kpc; this is largely consistent with earlier work. We find a modest, but significant metallicity gradient within the `outer' stellar halo, $\rm [Fe/H]$ decreasing outward. If we allow for a variable flattening $q = f(r_{GC} )$, we find the distribution of halo giants to be considerably more flattened at small radii, $q({\rm 10~kpc})\sim 0.57$, compared to $q(>30{\rm kpc})\sim 0.8$. Remarkably, the data are then very well fit by a single power-law of index $\rm \sim 4.2\pm0.1$ of the variable $r_q\equiv\sqrt{R^2+(z/q(r))^2}$. In this simple and better fitting model, there is a break in flattening at $\sim 20$~kpc, instead of a break in the radial density function.
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    ABSTRACT: We statistically quantify the amount of substructure in the Milky Way stellar halo using a sample of 4568 halo K giant stars at Galactocentric distances ranging over 5-125 kpc. These stars have been selected photometrically and confirmed spectroscopically as K giants from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey's SEGUE project. We use a position-velocity clustering estimator (the 4distance) and a smooth stellar halo model to quantify the amount of substructure in the halo. Overall, we find that the halo as a whole is highly structured, and confirm earlier work using BHB stars which showed that there is an increasing amount of substructure with increasing Galactocentric radius. In addition, we find that the amount of substructure in the halo increases with increasing metallicity, and that the K giant sample shows significantly stronger substructure than the BHB stars, which only sample the most metal poor stars. Using a friends-of-friends algorithm to identify groups, we find that a large fraction ($\sim 33\%$) of the stars in groups in our sample are associated with Sgr. We also identify stars belonging to other halo star streams, including the Orphan Stream, the Cetus Polar Stream, and others, including previously unknown substructures. However, a large fraction of stars in our sample (more than 50\%) are not grouped into any substructure. We find also that the Sgr stream strongly dominates groups in the outer halo for all except the most metal-poor stars, and suggest that this is the source of the increase of substructure with Galactocentric radius and metallicity.
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    ABSTRACT: The third generation of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III) took data from 2008 to 2014 using the original SDSS wide-field imager, the original and an upgraded multi-object fiber-fed optical spectrograph, a new near-infrared high-resolution spectrograph, and a novel optical interferometer. All the data from SDSS-III are now made public. In particular, this paper describes Data Release 11 (DR11) including all data acquired through 2013 July, and Data Release 12 (DR12) adding data acquired through 2014 July (including all data included in previous data releases), marking the end of SDSS-III observing. Relative to our previous public release (DR10), DR12 adds one million new spectra of galaxies and quasars from the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) over an additional 3000 sq. deg of sky, more than triples the number of H-band spectra of stars as part of the Apache Point Observatory (APO) Galactic Evolution Experiment (APOGEE), and includes repeated accurate radial velocity measurements of 5500 stars from the Multi-Object APO Radial Velocity Exoplanet Large-area Survey (MARVELS). The APOGEE outputs now include measured abundances of 15 different elements for each star. In total, SDSS-III added 5200 sq. deg of ugriz imaging; 155,520 spectra of 138,099 stars as part of the Sloan Exploration of Galactic Understanding and Evolution 2 (SEGUE-2) survey; 2,497,484 BOSS spectra of 1,372,737 galaxies, 294,512 quasars, and 247,216 stars over 9376 sq. deg; 618,080 APOGEE spectra of 156,593 stars; and 197,040 MARVELS spectra of 5,513 stars. Since its first light in 1998, SDSS has imaged over 1/3 the Celestial sphere in five bands and obtained over five million astronomical spectra.
    The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series 01/2015; 219(1). DOI:10.1088/0067-0049/219/1/12 · 14.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We analyze a sample of tens of thousands of spectra of halo turnoff stars, obtained with the optical spectrographs of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), to characterize the stellar halo population "in situ" out to a distance of a few tens of kpc from the Sun. In this paper we describe the derivation of atmospheric parameters. We also derive the overall stellar metallicity distribution based on F-type stars observed as flux calibrators for the Baryonic Oscillations Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS). Our analysis is based on an automated method that determines the set of parameters of a model atmosphere that reproduces each observed spectrum best. We used an optimization algorithm and evaluate model fluxes by means of interpolation in a precomputed grid. In our analysis, we account for the spectrograph's varying resolution as a function of fiber and wavelength. Our results for early SDSS (pre-BOSS upgrade) data compare well with those from the SEGUE Stellar Parameter Pipeline (SSPP), except for stars with logg (cgs units) lower than 2.5. An analysis of stars in the globular cluster M13 reveals a dependence of the inferred metallicity on surface gravity for stars with logg < 2.5, confirming the systematics identified in the comparison with the SSPP. We find that our metallicity estimates are significantly more precise than the SSPP results. We obtain a halo metallicity distribution that is narrower and more asymmetric than in previous studies. The lowest gravity stars in our sample, at tens of kpc from the Sun, indicate a shift of the metallicity distribution to lower abundances, consistent with what is expected from a dual halo system in the Milky Way.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 06/2014; 568. DOI:10.1051/0004-6361/201424053 · 4.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) has been in operation since 2000 April. This paper presents the Tenth Public Data Release (DR10) from its current incarnation, SDSS-III. This data release includes the first spectroscopic data from the Apache Point Observatory Galaxy Evolution Experiment (APOGEE), along with spectroscopic data from the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) taken through 2012 July. The APOGEE instrument is a near-infrared R ~ 22,500 300 fiber spectrograph covering 1.514-1.696 μm. The APOGEE survey is studying the chemical abundances and radial velocities of roughly 100,000 red giant star candidates in the bulge, bar, disk, and halo of the Milky Way. DR10 includes 178,397 spectra of 57,454 stars, each typically observed three or more times, from APOGEE. Derived quantities from these spectra (radial velocities, effective temperatures, surface gravities, and metallicities) are also included. DR10 also roughly doubles the number of BOSS spectra over those included in the Ninth Data Release. DR10 includes a total of 1,507,954 BOSS spectra comprising 927,844 galaxy spectra, 182,009 quasar spectra, and 159,327 stellar spectra selected over 6373.2 deg2.
    The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series 07/2013; 211(2). DOI:10.1088/0067-0049/211/2/17 · 14.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: et al. 2004; Mihos et al. 2005); these coherent streams can later be destroyed during a subsequent cluster accretion event, contributing to a smooth diffuse ICL component (e.g., Rudick et al. 2006, 2008). The morphology of the diffuse ICL on cluster scales thus contains information on the recent accretion history of galaxy clusters. On smaller scales, the ICL can trace the dynamical history of individual galaxies, as extended tidal debris can highlight past interactions, either with the cluster potential or with other galaxies (e.g., Schweizer 1980; Malin 1994; Weil et al. 1997; Katsiyannis et al. 1998; Feldmeier et al. 2004; Janowiecki et al. in preparation). Along with diffuse light, the ICL can be studied through discrete tracers such as globular clusters (West et al. 1995; Williams et al. 2007a), red giants (Ferguson
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    ABSTRACT: We present an online catalog of distance determinations for 4781 K giants, most of which are members of the Milky Way's stellar halo. Their spectra from SDSS/SEGUE provide metallicities with accuracies \Delta [Fe/H]\approx\pm0.2 dex and giant-dwarf distinction. The distance moduli are derived from a comparison of each star's apparent magnitude with the absolute magnitude of empirically calibrated color-luminosity fiducials, at the observed (g-r)_0 color and spectroscopic [Fe/H]. We employ a probabilistic approach that makes it straightforward to propagate the errors in metallicities, magnitudes, and colors properly into distance uncertainties. We also fold in prior information about the giant-branch luminosity function and different metallicity distributions of the SEGUE K-giant targeting sub-categories. We show that the metallicity prior plays little role in the distance estimates, but that neglecting the luminosity prior would lead to a systematic distance modulus bias of up to 0.2 mag. We find a median distance precision of 12%, with distance estimates most precise for the least metal-poor stars near the tip of the red-giant branch. We use globular and open clusters to verify the precision and accuracy of our distance estimates. The stars in our publicly available catalog are up to 110 kpc distant from the Galactic center, with 270 stars beyond 50 kpc, forming the largest sample of distant tracers in the Galactic halo.
    The Astrophysical Journal 11/2012; 784(2). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/784/2/170 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This document summarizes the results of a community-based discussion of the potential science impact of the Mayall+BigBOSS highly multiplexed multi-object spectroscopic capability. The KPNO Mayall 4m telescope equipped with the DOE- and internationally-funded BigBOSS spectrograph offers one of the most cost-efficient ways of accomplishing many of the pressing scientific goals identified for this decade by the "New Worlds, New Horizons" report. The BigBOSS Key Project will place unprecedented constraints on cosmological parameters related to the expansion history of the universe. With the addition of an open (publicly funded) community access component, the scientific impact of BigBOSS can be extended to many important astrophysical questions related to the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars, and the IGM. Massive spectroscopy is the critical missing ingredient in numerous ongoing and planned ground- and space-based surveys, and BigBOSS is unique in its ability to provide this to the US community. BigBOSS data from community-led projects will play a vital role in the education and training of students and in maintaining US leadership in these fields of astrophysics. We urge the NSF-AST division to support community science with the BigBOSS multi-object spectrograph through the period of the BigBOSS survey in order to ensure public access to the extraordinary spectroscopic capability.
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    ABSTRACT: Detailed observations of the Galaxy can be used to test predictions made by models of disk formation and evolution, and they serve to complement large surveys that study galaxies at high redshift. The observed radial and vertical metallicity distribution of old stars in the Milky Way disk provides powerful constraints on the chemical enrichment and dynamical history of the disk. We present trends in [Fe/H] and [α/Fe] as a function of Galactocentric radius R and height above the plane |Z| using 7010 main sequence turnoff stars observed by the Sloan Extension for Galactic Understanding and Exploration (SEGUE) survey. The sample consists of mostly old thin and thick disk stars, with a minimal contribution from the stellar halo, in the region 6 < R < 16 kpc, 0.15 < |Z| < 1.5 kpc. We find that the radial metallicity gradient Δ[Fe/H]/Δ R becomes flat at heights |Z| > 1 kpc. In addition, we find that the high-α population, which dominates at large heights |Z| in the inner disk (R < 10 kpc), makes up a small fraction of stars in the outer disk (R > 10 kpc). The chemical and kinematic properties of high-α stars in the outer disk differ from those in the inner disk, consistent with the high-α population having a short scale length. Our observations are consistent with the predictions for a thick disk formed in situ at high redshift, and the lack of high-α stars at large R and |Z| provides a strong constraint on the strength of radial migration induced by transient spiral arms.
    08/2012; 219:105-.
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    ABSTRACT: The Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) presents the first spectroscopic data from the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS). This ninth data release (DR9) of the SDSS project includes 535,995 new galaxy spectra (median z=0.52), 102,100 new quasar spectra (median z=2.32), and 90,897 new stellar spectra, along with the data presented in previous data releases. These spectra were obtained with the new BOSS spectrograph and were taken between 2009 December and 2011 July. In addition, the stellar parameters pipeline, which determines radial velocities, surface temperatures, surface gravities, and metallicities of stars, has been updated and refined with improvements in temperature estimates for stars with T_eff<5000 K and in metallicity estimates for stars with [Fe/H]>-0.5. DR9 includes new stellar parameters for all stars presented in DR8, including stars from SDSS-I and II, as well as those observed as part of the SDSS-III Sloan Extension for Galactic Understanding and Exploration-2 (SEGUE-2). The astrometry error introduced in the DR8 imaging catalogs has been corrected in the DR9 data products. The next data release for SDSS-III will be in Summer 2013, which will present the first data from the Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment (APOGEE) along with another year of data from BOSS, followed by the final SDSS-III data release in December 2014.
    The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series 07/2012; 203(2). DOI:10.1088/0067-0049/203/2/21 · 14.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tidal stripping and three-body interactions with the central supermassive black hole may eject stars from the Milky Way. These stars would comprise a set of 'intragroup' stars that trace the past history of interactions in our galactic neighborhood. Using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey DR7, we identify candidate solar-metallicity red giant intragroup stars using color cuts that are designed to exclude nearby M and L dwarfs. We present 677 intragroup candidates that are selected between 300 kpc and 2 Mpc, and are either the reddest intragroup candidates (M7-M10) or are L dwarfs at larger distances than previously detected.
    The Astronomical Journal 06/2012; 143(6). DOI:10.1088/0004-6256/143/6/128 · 4.05 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We examine the \alpha-element abundance ratio, [\alpha/Fe], of 5620 stars, observed by the Sloan Extension for Galactic Understanding and Exploration survey in the region 6 kpc < R < 16 kpc, 0.15 kpc < |Z| < 1.5 kpc, as a function of Galactocentric radius R and distance from the Galactic plane |Z|. Our results show that the high-\alpha\ thick disk population has a short scale length (L_thick ~ 1.8 kpc) compared to the low-\alpha population, which is typically associated with the thin disk. We find that the fraction of high-\alpha\ stars in the inner disk increases at large |Z|, and that high-\alpha\ stars lag in rotation compared to low-\alpha\ stars. In contrast, the fraction of high-\alpha\ stars in the outer disk is low at all |Z|, and high- and low-\alpha\ stars have similar rotational velocities up to 1.5 kpc from the plane. We interpret these results to indicate that different processes were responsible for the high-\alpha\ populations in the inner and outer disk. The high-\alpha\ population in the inner disk has a short scale length and large scale height, consistent with a scenario in which the thick disk forms during an early gas-rich accretion phase. Stars far from the plane in the outer disk may have reached their current locations through heating by minor mergers. The lack of high-\alpha\ stars at large R and |Z| also places strict constraints on the strength of radial migration via transient spiral structure.
    The Astrophysical Journal 04/2012; 752(1). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/752/1/51 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tidal stripping and three-body interactions with the central supermassive black hole may eject stars from the Milky Way. These stars would comprise a set of `intragroup' stars that trace the past history of interactions in our galactic neighborhood. Using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey DR7, we identify candidate solar metallicity red giant intragroup stars using color cuts that are designed to exclude nearby M and L dwarfs. We present 677 intragroup candidates that are selected between 300 kpc and 2 Mpc, and are either the reddest intragroup candidates (M7-M10) or are L dwarfs at larger distances than previously detected.
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    ABSTRACT: The observed radial and vertical metallicity distribution of old stars in the Milky Way disk provides a powerful constraint on the chemical enrichment and dynamical history of the disk system. We present the radial metallicity gradient, Δ[Fe/H]/ΔR, as a function of height above the plane, |Z|, using 7010 main-sequence turnoff stars observed by the Sloan Extension for Galactic Understanding and Exploration survey. The sample consists of mostly old thin and thick disk stars, with a minimal contribution from the stellar halo, in the region 6 kpc < R < 16 kpc, 0.15 kpc < |Z| < 1.5 kpc. The data reveal that the radial metallicity gradient becomes flat at heights |Z| > 1 kpc. The median metallicity at large |Z| is consistent with the metallicities seen in outer disk open clusters, which exhibit a flat radial gradient at [Fe/H] ~–0.5. We note that the outer disk clusters are also located at large |Z|; because the flat gradient extends to small R for our sample, there is some ambiguity in whether the observed trends for clusters are due to a change in R or |Z|. We therefore stress the importance of considering both the radial and vertical directions when measuring spatial abundance trends in the disk. The flattening of the gradient at high |Z| also has implications on thick disk formation scenarios, which predict different metallicity patterns in the thick disk. A flat gradient, such as we observe, is predicted by a turbulent disk at high redshift, but may also be consistent with radial migration, as long as mixing is strong. We test our analysis methods using a mock catalog based on the model of Schönrich & Binney, and we estimate our distance errors to be ~25%. We also show that we can properly correct for selection biases by assigning weights to our targets.
    The Astrophysical Journal 01/2012; 746(2):149. DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/746/2/149 · 6.28 Impact Factor
  • American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts #219; 01/2012
  • ZHIBO MA · H. Morrison · P. Harding · X. Xue · H. Rix · C. Rockosi · J. Johnson · Y. Lee · K. Cudworth
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    ABSTRACT: We present a new determination of the metallicity distribution function in the Milky Way halo, based on an in situ sample of more than 5000 K giants from SDSS/SEGUE. We have also measured the metallicity gradient in the halo, using our sample which stretches from 5 kpc to more than 100 kpc from the galactic center. The halo metallicity gradient has been a controversial topic in recent studies, but our in-situ study overcomes the problems caused in these studies by their extrapolations from local samples to the distant halo. We also describe our extensive checks of the log g and [Fe/H] measurements from the SEGUE Stellar Parameters pipeline, using globular and open cluster stars and SEGUE stars with follow-up high-resolution analysis. In addition, we present a new Bayesian estimate of distances to the K giants, which avoids the distance bias introduced by the red giant branch luminosity function.
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    ABSTRACT: We present the metallicity distribution function (MDF) for 24,270 G and 16,847 K dwarfs at distances from 0.2 to 2.3 kpc from the Galactic plane, based on spectroscopy from the Sloan Extension for Galactic Understanding and Exploration (SEGUE) survey. This stellar sample is significantly larger in both number and volume than previous spectroscopic analyses, which were limited to the solar vicinity, making it ideal for comparison with local volume-limited samples and Galactic models. For the first time, we have corrected the MDF for the various observational biases introduced by the SEGUE target selection strategy. The SEGUE sample is particularly notable for K dwarfs, which are too faint to examine spectroscopically far from the solar neighborhood. The MDF of both spectral types becomes more metal-poor with increasing |Z|, which reflects the transition from a sample with small [alpha/Fe] values at small heights to one with enhanced [alpha/Fe] above 1 kpc. Comparison of our SEGUE distributions to those of two different Milky Way models reveals that both are more metal-rich than our observed distributions at all heights above the plane. Our unbiased observations of G and K dwarfs provide valuable constraints over the |Z|-height range of the Milky Way disk for chemical and dynamical Galaxy evolution models, previously only calibrated to the solar neighborhood, with particular utility for thin- and thick-disk formation models.
    The Astrophysical Journal 12/2011; 761(2). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/761/2/160 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present absorption line indices measured in the integrated spectra of globular clusters both from the Galaxy and from M31. Our samples include 41 Galactic globular clusters, and more than 300 clusters in M31. The conversion of instrumental equivalent widths into the Lick system is described, and zero-point uncertainties are provided. Comparison of line indices of old M31 clusters and Galactic globular clusters suggests an absence of important differences in chemical composition between the two cluster systems. In particular, CN indices in the spectra of M31 and Galactic clusters are essentially consistent with each other, in disagreement with several previous works. We reanalyze some of the previous data, and conclude that reported CN differences between M31 and Galactic clusters were mostly due to data calibration uncertainties. Our data support the conclusion that the chemical compositions of Milky Way and M31 globular clusters are not substantially different, and that there is no need to resort to enhanced nitrogen abundances to account for the optical spectra of M31 globular clusters.
    The Astronomical Journal 12/2011; 143(1):14. DOI:10.1088/0004-6256/143/1/14 · 4.05 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present and analyze the positions, distances, and radial velocities for over 4000 blue horizontal-branch (BHB) stars in the Milky Way's halo, drawn from SDSS DR8. We search for position-velocity substructure in these data, a signature of the hierarchical assembly of the stellar halo. Using a cumulative "close pair distribution" as a statistic in the four-dimensional space of sky position, distance, and velocity, we quantify the presence of position-velocity substructure at high statistical significance among the BHB stars: pairs of BHB stars that are close in position on the sky tend to have more similar distances and radial velocities compared to a random sampling of these overall distributions. We make analogous mock observations of 11 numerical halo formation simulations, in which the stellar halo is entirely composed of disrupted satellite debris, and find a level of substructure comparable to that seen in the actually observed BHB star sample. This result quantitatively confirms the hierarchical build-up of the stellar halo through a signature in phase (position-velocity) space. In detail, the structure present in the BHB stars is somewhat less prominent than that seen in most simulated halos, quite possibly because BHB stars represent an older sub-population. BHB stars located beyond 20 kpc from the Galactic center exhibit stronger substructure than at r gc < 20 kpc.
    The Astrophysical Journal 08/2011; 738(1):79. DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/738/1/79 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Building on the legacy of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-I and II), SDSS-III is a program of four spectroscopic surveys on three scientific themes: dark energy and cosmological parameters, the history and structure of the Milky Way, and the population of giant planets around other stars. In keeping with SDSS tradition, SDSS-III will provide regular public releases of all its data, beginning with SDSS DR8 (which occurred in Jan 2011). This paper presents an overview of the four SDSS-III surveys. BOSS will measure redshifts of 1.5 million massive galaxies and Lya forest spectra of 150,000 quasars, using the BAO feature of large scale structure to obtain percent-level determinations of the distance scale and Hubble expansion rate at z<0.7 and at z~2.5. SEGUE-2, which is now completed, measured medium-resolution (R=1800) optical spectra of 118,000 stars in a variety of target categories, probing chemical evolution, stellar kinematics and substructure, and the mass profile of the dark matter halo from the solar neighborhood to distances of 100 kpc. APOGEE will obtain high-resolution (R~30,000), high signal-to-noise (S/N>100 per resolution element), H-band (1.51-1.70 micron) spectra of 10^5 evolved, late-type stars, measuring separate abundances for ~15 elements per star and creating the first high-precision spectroscopic survey of all Galactic stellar populations (bulge, bar, disks, halo) with a uniform set of stellar tracers and spectral diagnostics. MARVELS will monitor radial velocities of more than 8000 FGK stars with the sensitivity and cadence (10-40 m/s, ~24 visits per star) needed to detect giant planets with periods up to two years, providing an unprecedented data set for understanding the formation and dynamical evolution of giant planet systems. (Abridged)
    The Astronomical Journal 08/2011; 142(3):72. DOI:10.1088/0004-6256/142/3/72 · 4.05 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

5k Citations
347.26 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1999–2014
    • Case Western Reserve University
      • Department of Astronomy
      Cleveland, Ohio, United States
  • 2009
    • California Institute of Technology
      • Department of Astronomy
      Pasadena, California, United States
  • 2000
    • The University of Arizona
      • Department of Astronomy
      Tucson, Arizona, United States