The New Galaxy: Signatures of Its Formation

The formation and evolution of galaxies is one of the great outstanding problems of astrophysics. Within the broad context of hierachical structure formation, we have only a crude picture of how galaxies like our own came into existence. A detailed physical picture where individual stellar populations can be associated with (tagged to) elements of the protocloud is far beyond our current understanding. Important clues have begun to emerge from both the Galaxy (near-field cosmology) and the high redshift universe (far-field cosmology). Here we focus on the fossil evidence provided by the Galaxy. Detailed studies of the Galaxy lie at the core of understanding the complex processes involved in baryon dissipation. This is a necessary first step toward achieving a successful theory of galaxy formation.