see also the obligatory mountain picture
(credit: H.-W. Rix)

I am a Long-term Member and Bahcall fellow in the astrophysics group of the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study. My research is currently mostly focused on understanding the dynamical structure, formation, and evolution of the Milky Way, but I work on a variety of problems in astrophysics.

I also serve as the Science Working Group Chair for the APOGEE survey, which uses high-resolution, high signal-to-noise infrared spectroscopy to investigate the structure of the bulge and disk regions of the Milky Way, as well as many other topics in stellar and galactic astrophysics.

I am the main developer of galpy, a well-tested, well-documented python library for galactic dynamics. For more information on other code with general usefulness, see the code section of this website or my GitHub profile.

Recent research highlights

  • First dynamical measurement of the surface density profile of the Milky Way's disk, directly measuring the Milky Way disk's scale length and breaking the disk–halo degeneracy in the inner Milky Way
    (figure from: Astrophys. J. 779, 115 (2013) [link])

  • First measurement of the Milky Way's circular velocity and rotation curve from stellar kinematics covering a large part of the Galactic disk from the first year of APOGEE data. These data show that Vc = 218 ± 6 km s-1, the most precise measurement of the circular velocity ever [link]
  • Discovered that the Milky Way disk's vertical structure is very different from what was previously thought: By separating disk populations by their chemical signatures, we have shown that there is a continuous range of disk thicknesses present. Most of the stellar mass is in the thinnest components, with a smaller amount of mass in the thicker components (see figure below). This is in contrast with the previous picture where the vertical structure was characterized by a "thin" and a "thick" component,
    (figure from: Astrophys. J. 751, 131 (2012) [link])

  • Direct observation of the inside-out growth of the Milky Way's disk
    (paper: Astrophys. J. in press, (2012) [link])

  • Developed the XDQSO technique used to discover more than 90,000 quasars (and counting) as part of SDSS-III's BOSS; this sample includes the largest homogeneously selected sample of quasars with redshift ≥ 2.2 [link]
  • Showed that data from Moni Bidin et al. (2012) imply a local dark matter density near the Sun of 0.3 ± 0.1 GeV cm-3, in contrast with previous claims. Press: [New Scientist] [Universe Today] [The Guardian] [La Libération]
    (paper: Astrophys. J. submitted, (2012) [link])

contact info

email: bovy [at] ias [dot] edu

Institute for Advanced Study
School of Natural Sciences
Einstein Drive
Princeton, NJ 08540