Mapping The Milky Way

He has been featured in National Geographic News, NASA News and Astronomy Now – UK’s biggest astronomy magazine. In this post, Brazilian astrophysicist Denilso Camargo tells us about his work of mapping the entire galaxy and his love for the stars.

Imagine trying to create a map of your house while confined to only one room. How will you be able to represent your data accurately? Similarly, the job of mapping an entire galaxy while sitting on one of its spiral arms is a massive task. Astronomers have recently turned to NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE to map the Milky Way Galaxy.

Q: What is your focus?
Denilso: Currently I am working with star clusters and the Milky Way’s structure. Is there a Black Hole at the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy?

Q: Is there a Black Hole at the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy?
D: Yes. Sagittarius A is the supermassive black hole in the centre of our galaxy.

Q: That supermassive black hole must have been a star, right?
D: No, black holes that originate from the death of stars are not supermassive. They are formed due to gravitational collapse. On the other hand, the black hole at the centre of our galaxy is a primordial black hole which formed in the early stages of universe’s expansion.

Q: So I've learned something new! And what is the practical importance of this map you're creating?
D: As we are on one of its spiral arms, we can’t see much of the Milky Way galaxy. Just like we mapped our planet Earth for navigation purposes, we also need to map our galaxy in case there is hope of space travel in the future!

Q: So how do you perform such an important and difficult task?
D: We use young and new star clusters to create the map. These new babies have not yet had enough time to move far away from their birthplace and as they form in the spiral arms, we catch them with NASA’s Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer.

Q: And after each new star cluster discovered, you update the map, is that correct?
D: Yes and the map of the full galaxy improves over time.

Q: Let me talk about your large country Brazil for a moment, which is famous for fanatic football fans. Why did you choose to become an astronomer?
D: I, like most Brazilian boys, have always liked football. But I never thought of football as a profession. I loved stargazing and watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos in the 80s.

Q: So Carl Sagan is your inspiration, I believe?
D: Yes in a way but I will say I have been influenced by Einstein the most.

Q: What do you admire the most about Einstein?
D: Of course he was a great scientist that is one thing but he also was a very powerful personality. His imagination was supreme, he could do his own thought experiments such as Twin Paradox and above everything else, he was a great, humble person.

Q: What do you have to say about the current Brazilian education system?
D: Access to good schools is still a privilege of the few in Brazil. That gets in the way of course, we have lost a lot of bright young people because of that, but when the student really wants to learn or do something, he does it independent of the educational system.

Q: Absolutely! What will be your advice to the students who want to become astronomers in the future?
D: Astronomy is not too difficult but it is not fun all the time as many students may think! It is a combination of math, science and computer programming. You have to study hard in every domain.

his article in Brazil magazine

Thank you for your time and chatting with us!
D: You're welcome. This is a great initiative you guys, keep it going.

(This interview was conducted by Vedang Sati on Google Translate because Denilso preferred to speak in Portuguese).

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