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The Astronomy and Astrophysics Review

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 145–188 | Cite as

The stellar halo of the Galaxy

  • Amina Helmi
Open Access
Review Article

Abstract

Stellar halos may hold some of the best preserved fossils of the formation history of galaxies. They are a natural product of the merging processes that probably take place during the assembly of a galaxy, and hence may well be the most ubiquitous component of galaxies, independently of their Hubble type. This review focuses on our current understanding of the spatial structure, the kinematics and chemistry of halo stars in the Milky Way. In recent years, we have experienced a change in paradigm thanks to the discovery of large amounts of substructure, especially in the outer halo. I discuss the implications of the currently available observational constraints and fold them into several possible formation scenarios. Unraveling the formation of the Galactic halo will be possible in the near future through a combination of large wide field photometric and spectroscopic surveys, and especially in the era of Gaia.

Keywords

Galaxy: halo Galaxy: formation Galaxy: evolution Galaxy: kinematics and dynamics 

Notes

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kapteyn Astronomical InstituteUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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