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The HERMES project -- reconstructing the ancient Galaxy

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The first building blocks of our Galaxy were likely to have been laid down in the first 300 million years after the Big Bang. The first stars that came into being in those early structures have long since disappeared but they may have left behind unique chemical signatures in today’s stellar populations. Over the next 13 billion years, the Galaxy grew through a series of mergers and acquisitions into the corporate giant that surrounds us today —100 billion stars and counting. This was undoubtedly a very complex process that we are far from understanding even with the most sophisticated computer simulations. All stars show evidence of chemical signatures that say something about their past. In this talk, I will describe the basic motivation of the HERMES survey which will attempt to reconstruct the early Galaxy history through the technique of chemical tagging. The HERMES instrument is a major new $10M facility at the AAT that will see first light in 2012.

This talk is part of the Institute of Astronomy Colloquia series.

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