I had the immense pleasure of being invited to attend the “Milky Way in the Age of Gaia” workshop in Orsay/Paris in October. The format was a four-week workshop, with only 2-3 talks per day, and lightning talks on Mondays and thunder talks on Fridays.
This was a great way to pitch the projects, and to actually have plenty of time to work with colleagues from around the globe. Despite tools such as Skype, WebEx, Slack, and emails, there is no substitute for two or three weeks with plenty of time at a whiteboard, mixed with pair-programming, prototyping, and lengthy discussions over dinner.
The topic that was most interesting to me was the question on how to combine all our data sets of the ISM for the full sky. Ideally, we would want a consistent model of the different phases, such as dust/HI/HII/H2, as well as extragalactic contributions. This would allow us to obtain better dust temperatures, total extinction/reddening values, molecular fractions, maps of the dark gas, and maps of the cosmic infrared background.
The data sets that could be combined here span a wide range and all kinds of systematic effects, making this very challenging. It would include e.g. far-infrared emission based maps from Planck/IRAS, HI data from the HI4PI Survey, 3D dust maps based on Bayestar, and H-alpha data from WHAM.
Making progress on the combination of this will be very challenging, but highly rewarding at the same time. This workshop and future instances of it are essential to bring together the community and to make progress on this topic, and I’m looking forward to being back in Paris next year!