Ongoing Projects with My Team
Our Milky Way as a lab for fundamental questions
“Physics is a good framework for thinking.… Boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there.”
Elon Musk, entrepreneur
Selected Refereed Publications
D'Onghia, E., Fox, A. 2016, “The Magellanic Stream: Circumnavigating the Galaxy”, Annual Review Astronomy & Astrophysics, Vol. 54, 36
D’Onghia, E., Madau, P., Vera-Ciro, C., Quillen, A, Hernquist, L. 2016, “Excitation of Coupled Stellar Motions in the Galactic Disk by Orbiting Satellites”, ApJ, 823, 4
D’Onghia, E., Vogelsberger, M., Hernquist, L. 2013, “Self-Perpetuating Spiral Arms in Disk Galaxies”, ApJ, 766, 34
Vera-Ciro, C., D'Onghia, E., Navarro, J., Abadi, M. 2014, "The effect of radial migration on galactic disks", ApJ, 794, 173
D'Onghia, E.,Vogelsberger, M., Faucher-Giguere, C.-A., Hernquist, 2010, “Quasi-Resonant Theory of Tidal Interactions”, ApJ, 725, 353
D'Onghia, E., Springel, V., Hernquist, L., Keres, D. 2010, "Substructure Depletion in the Milky Way Halo by the Disk", ApJ, 709, 1138
D’Onghia, E., Besla, G., Cox, T.J, Hernquist, L. 2009, “Resonant stripping as the origin of dwarf spheroidal galaxies”, Nature, 460, 605
D’Onghia, E., Lake, G. 2008, “Small Dwarf Galaxies within Larger Dwarfs: Why some are luminous when most go dark”, ApJ, 686, L61
Very Large Array Telescope, Socorro, New Mexico
I highlight here my major contributions to the research areas of the dynamics of the Milky Way stellar disk and the dwarf companion galaxies that orbit around it.
My study on disk dynamics allowed me to address a long-standing question posed by mathematicians, physicists, and astronomers, namely the origin of the spiral arms in disk galaxies like our Milky Way. My work has shown that stellar spiral arms are not transient features—as was thought for almost 60
years—but rather are self-perpetuating, persistent, and long-lived in a statistical sense.
I have also proposed that dwarf galaxies are not accreted individually into the Milky Way, but rather come
in associations. In particular I have suggested that the Magellanic Clouds were accreted into the Milky Way halo as the largest members of a group of dwarf galaxies. The discovery of several new ultra-faint Milky Way companions in 2016, using the data from the Dark Energy Survey, is consistent with this scenario.
Professional Preparation. I received my doctorate in astrophysics from the University of Milan, Italy, where my research was concerned with the nature of the dark matter at the center of galaxies. Since I completed my PhD I was a Research Fellow at the LMU/Observatory and Max-Planck Institute (MPE)
in Munich, Germany, and a Marie Curie Fellow in Zurich, Switzerland. I was a Keck Foundation Fellow at the ITC at Harvard before joining the faculty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 2012. I have received a number of awards and honors: the Alfred P. Sloan Fellow in 2013, the Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow in 2013, the Madison Teaching and Learning Excellence Fellow in 2014, and a SFB
Research Fellow at the Astronomishen Richen-Institute (ARI), Heidelberg, Germany in 2016. My current research is financed by the National Science Foundation and the NASA Theory Program.
Will Chen Stephen Elena Nate Alisha Tim
My current research focuses on the dynamics of our Milky Way Galaxy. I learn about fundamental physics by studying the dynamics of stars and gas in our Milky Way using analytic methods and numerical simulations.While large-scale numerical simulations allow us to describe the complexity
of physical processes occurring in the Milky Way, the analytic approximations are laws that can describe a complex phenomenon in a simple way. For instance, the Kepler laws describe the
planetary motions in our Solar System but also the motion of stars within the Galactic disk. Discovered more than 300 years ago, these relations are used today in spaceflight to launch satellites.
The goal of my research is to develop new methodologies to answer fundamental questions like: is our Sun a star born in this part of the Galactic disk or is it an immigrant? How did the motion of stars and gas in the intergalactic medium occur? How did stars form in giant molecular clouds and
in the dwarf galaxies that orbit as satellites around our Milky Way? By answering these questions I provide hints for developing new technologies for the future. For instance, by studying the stellar and gas disk that characterizes our Galaxy we understand the environment outside of our Solar System.
In 2030 human beings will go to Mars. However, the real challenge is to develop technologies that allow us to go outside of the Solar System!
My research team is an interdisciplinary and diverse community at the University of Wisconsin,
Madison, that consists of three graduate students in Astronomy: Tim Heines, Alisha Kundert,
Stephen Pardy, as well as one graduate student in Physics: Chad Bustard.
Four undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, are actively involved in my research: three Majors in Physics and Astronomy (Sam Carman, Nate Hilliard, Will Tyndell), and
one Major in Mathematics (Boquan Chen). Moreover, Carlos Vera-Ciro was a Postdoc Fellow in our team before joining the faculty at the University of Medellin, Colombia in 2016.
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Department of Astronomy
3504 Sterling Hall
475 N. Charter Street, Madison WI-53706-1507
Phone: (608) 262 4622
Sterling Hall, Madison, Wisconsin