The Solar Neighborhood in 3D
Given all the new nearby stars groups like RECONS are discovering, wouldn't it be nice to actually, finally SEE what the Solar Neighborhood looks like? Well, now you can.
The following links will take you to pages where I show the spatial locations of nearby stars, and answer various questions. The maps themselves are large rotating .gif animations (they range between 3 and 19 MB, so be careful).
10 pc maps (32.6 light years)
RECONS' bread and butter, and the primary focus of Dr. Todd Henry's work. Note that there should be around 400 systems within 10 pc, if this part of the galaxy has constant stellar density.
As it was known in 2010:
10 pc, 2010 (256 systems)
Current state, including UNPUBLISHED results:
10 pc, 2011 (271 systems)
25 pc maps (81.5 light years)
A new and old focus of the RECONS group, and the one originally responsible for our CTIOPI parallax program.
Over the years, many censii of nearby stars have reached to 25 pc: The Wooley catalog (1970), the Gliese (& Jahreiss) Catalogs of Nearby Stars (1957-1991), and the NStars database (1998-2001). Dr. Henry was involved in the NStars effort and began the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory Parallax Investigation (CTIOPI) as part of that effort.
Note that, if this part of the galaxy has constant stellar density, there should be 6000+ systems within 25 pc.
The NStars database (25 pc) 2006 (1832 definitive systems, 2011 total)
(including additional spectroscopy I added in 2009)
RECONS is now working on a new database to supercede NStars, which has not seen any official activity of any kind since 2006. While this new catalog is not yet as complete as the final state of the NStars database, it is being actively worked on.
The RECONS database (25 pc, Jan 2012) (2089 definitive systems)
100 pc young stars (326 light years)
The discovery of stars younger than 100 Myr old (a short period of time for all but the biggest and brightest stars) closer than 100 pc was unexpected, as there are no giant molecular clouds that close to the Sun.
Nevertheless, in the last dozen years, no fewer than 7 relatively-distinct associations of young stars have been discovered. They are marked by similar motions through space, similar ages, and similar chemical compositions; their spatial distributions are also very interesting (notice how spread out they are, when space should be at LEAST as packed with stars as the NStars 25 pc database
Nearby Young Stars(Zuckerman et al. 2004; Torres et al. 2008)
From a research perspective, we care about nearby stars because the vast majority of stars are VERY faint. To have a 'volume-limited' sample of stars (necessary to actually solve questions of how stars form and in what ratio of small to large); how dense the galaxy is, how many stars there are in the galaxy, and so on) we need to actually be able to DETECT every single star (and anything orbiting them), and that is much easier to do nearby.
We also need to be able to determine the distance to the stars, and the only unbiased fundamental method for distance determination (trigonometric parallax) is limited to short distances. So much depends on distances (spatial extent of disks, orbits, accurate luminosities of stars) that a truly ironclad set of information about a star must include an accurate distance.
On a more philosophical level, these particular maps serve the more base need to know WHERE we are, and what's nearby. Maps have always been important to humanity. Empires were lost and won based on their ability to find where they were going. Through all this, the desire to know where we are has also propelled people (like me) to become astronomers and learn about the rest of the universe.
Even with all the access I have to data about nearby stars, it's hard to think of them as actual places. Thus was this side project born. The stars you see here are real; their locations in space are also real to the best of our knowledge. If humanity ever leaves the Solar System, this is where it will go.
In any case, plotting nearby stars in 3D is not a new idea; here's a stereogram from Luyten & Shapley 1930.
May I use the images elsewhere?
Yes, but please credit A. Riedel, T. Henry, and RECONS. Also, consider dropping me a note to let me know you're using my maps. I'd love to know.
May I get the data?
Not from me. They are not mine to give.
The RECONS 10 pc list will be published soon by Dr. Todd Henry. Once published, it will be in the public domain.
The NStars 25 pc database was once available here: NStars @ Northern Arizona University. Unfortunately, the web interface is no longer functional.
The RECONS 25 pc database is far from complete; RECONS has plans to publish the database (and make a web interface, much like NStars) once this work is incomplete. If you REALLY want early access, consider hiring me as a postdoc.
The data used in the young stars plot is primarily from the SACY project and Zuckerman & Song (2004), and used as published in Torres et al. 2008 and Zuckerman & Song (2004) (behind a paywall), with a few additions from other sources.