The 2020 Spring Symposium on the Local Group

C. Christian (carolc[at]stsci.edu), A. Calamida, T. Sohn, E. Sacchi, and the STScI 2020 Spring Symposium Science Organizing Committee

For more than 30 years, the Space Telescope Science Institute has hosted a Spring Symposium on a topic that brings together scientists from different regimes of astronomy to stimulate intra-discipline discussion. In April 20–23, 2020, the subject will be, "The Local Group: Assembly and Evolution."

The driving motivation for the next symposium derives from the hierarchical nature of cosmological structure formation which can be studied most directly, and in greatest detail, in the very nearby Universe. That is, the Local Group (LG) is filled with substructure, some bound and some in various stages of disruption. These objects carry the fossil record of the LG's assembly history and represent a link between large-scale structure and small-scale galaxy formation. The LG is therefore a unique and powerful laboratory for testing various aspects of galaxy formation and cosmological theories. 

Thanks to both observational and theoretical advances, our understanding of the assembly and evolution of the Local Group has improved significantly in the last decade. Wide-field photometric/astrometric surveys such as the Pan-STARRS, DES, and Gaia, as well as deep HST imaging and proper motions, continue to provide unprecedented views of the stellar systems in the Local Group. Spectroscopic surveys such as APOGEE now allow chemical tagging of stars that belong to multiple structural components. Facilities coming up in the immediate future such as JWST and LSST will provide transformational data sets both for understanding galaxy formation in the Local Group in fine detail and contextualizing the Local Group in the broader picture of galaxy formation and evolution. At the same time, computing resources have become powerful enough to simulate even the faintest known galaxies across the age of the Universe and to investigate observable imprints of the nature of dark matter in these objects.

Accordingly, the 2020 symposium will cover topics bringing the stellar populations and the galaxy evolution communities, to address questions such as:

How did the Milky Way system assemble and form?

For example, what is the role and interaction of globular clusters with the halo and bulge, and what is the star-formation history of the thin and thick disks?

What is the relationship of the Milky Way and M31?

How do these galaxies compare and interact, and how does that influence the Local Group (LG)?

What are the characteristics of the LG and its galaxies?

What are the interactions in the LG and how do those influence the histories of star formation in the galaxies? Further how does the LG interact with the Local Volume? How is the LG different from other groupings?

The conference information, including all important dates, is linked from the The Local Group: Assembly and Evolution page.