Mapping the Local Interstellar Medium

Assistant Professor of Astronomy Seth Redfield spoke to Forbes about creating the first comprehensive map of the local interstellar medium–the gas drifting between the nearest stars–which “will not only help theorists better understand the dynamics of our tiny swath of the galaxy, but represents the first crucial step in paving the way for interstellar travel.” Redfield recently co-authored papers appearing in The Astrophysical Journal, detailing several hundred spectral line measurements out to bright stars within 326 light years (100 parsecs) of our sun.

“As if looking in the sun’s rear-view mirror at the road it’s traveled over the last 40 million years,” said Redfield, “that’s the direction of the ISM that we’re probing.”