Surfing the Radcliffe Wave

The Radcliffe Wave is a gigantic structure that defines the shape of the Sun's local neighborhood in the Milky Way Galaxy. The Radcliffe Wave not only looks like a wave, but also moves like a wave.The new discovery that the Radcliffe Wave is Oscillating was first presented officially in a paper published in Nature on February 20, 2024. Its existence was first presented officially in a paper published in Nature on January 7, 2020. 

This website offers scientists, educators, and the interested public much more information about the "RadWave," as we like to call it.  Please use this page to find  publications and visuals (images, interactives, and videos), team info, software, and data. And, if we forgot something, just let us know—and we'll try to include it in future updates!

The Wave is Waving

In 2024 an international team led by Ralf Konietzka announced they were able to determine that the entire Radcliffe Wave is indeed waving. By using the motion of very young stars recently born in the gaseous clouds along the Radcliffe Wave, they traced the motion of their natal gas to show that the Radcliffe Wave is moving like what physicists call a "traveling wave."
A traveling wave is the same phenomenon we see in a sports stadium when people stand up and sit down in sequence to “do the wave.” Likewise, the star clusters along the Radcliffe Wave move up and down, creating a pattern that travels through our galactic backyard.

Download the video in landscape or portrait format from this folder.

credit: Ralf Konietzka / Harvard University







RadWave Cosmic Data Story
You want to play with the Radcliffe Wave yourself and want to learn more about the backyard of our Sun?

Discovery of the Wave

In 2020 an intenational team led by João Alves combined brand-new data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission with the data-intensive “3D Dust Mapping” technique such that they noticed a pattern emerging, leading to the discovery of the Radcliffe Wave.
The Radcliffe Wave hase been there the whole time. Nobody just didn't know about it since the high-resolution 3D models of the distribution of gaseous clouds near the Sun could not be built beforehand.

credit: Alyssa Goodman / Harvard University

Mr. Ralf Konietzka;
Prof. Alyssa Goodman;
Dr. Catherine Zucker;
Mr. Michael Foley;
Prof. Douglas Finkbeiner;
Dr. Joshua Speagle

Mr. Ralf Konietzka;
Prof. Andreas Burkert

Univ. Prof. João Alves;
Mr. Cameren Swiggum;
Ms. Maria Koller;
Dr. Nuria Miret-Roig;
Dr. Stefan Meingast  

Prof. & co-Director Alyssa Goodman (RI '17);
Prof. Dr. João Alves (RI '19)

Mr. Ralf Konietzka;
Prof. Andreas Burkert

Dr. Catherine Zucker

Science Dr. Gregory Green (presently Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg)

Science Dr. Edward Schlafly (presently at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

3D dust mapping Software+Science
Dr. Gregory Green, Dr. Eddie Schlafly, Dr. Catherine Zucker, Dr. Joshua Speagle, Prof. Douglas Finkbeiner (PI)

Software Dr. Peter K. G. Williams (CfA/AAS); Mr. Jonathan Fay (Microsoft Research); Mr. Curtis Wong (Microsoft Research, ret.)

Science/Visualization Prof. Alyssa Goodman

Software Dr. Thomas Robitaille (Aperio Software & glue solutions, inc. lead glue developer); Dr. Catherine Zucker

Science/Visualization Prof. Alyssa Goodman (PI)