The American Astronomical Society held their biannual meeting in Austin, Texas, earlier this month, producing a flurry of astronomically-themed press releases. I realize that is ages ago in "internet time," but I think my brain and work schedule are only just now recovering from attending. One of the coolest projects to be introduced is APOGEE, a survey aimed at characterizing 100,000 stars in our Milky Way Galaxy.
APOGEE stands for Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment, and it is probably one of the least tortured acronyms in all of astronomy. This project will survey red giant stars across the entire sky in order to measure the shape, motions, and chemistry of our Galaxy.
The APOGEE team designed an infrared camera, part of which was built at the University of Virginia, for the 2.5-meter telescope in Apache Point, New Mexico, that was originally used for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
You might think that, since we're IN it, we would know more about our own Galaxy than we do about other galaxies. However, it's hard to get a complete picture of the Galaxy from inside of it. Think about it: we've never seen it from outside of it, and probably won't for a very long time!