Presentation #437.01 in the session Zasowski Plenary Lecture.
We all know the Milky Way Galaxy is a galaxy — it says so right in the name! — and in fact, it is the best-studied galaxy in the Universe. Our unique position embedded in its disk enables us to study aspects of the Milky Way we can’t achieve in other galaxies, but it also hampers some measurements of the Milky Way that are easily made in other galaxies. The result of this situation is considerable uncertainty in how our remarkable understanding of galaxy evolution in one special system applies to galaxy evolution more generally. In this talk, I will explore what we know and what we don’t know of the Milky Way in the broader galactic context. Why is it hard to learn these things? Why do we care about learning them? I’ll describe both seminal and recent work to link these different galactic perspectives, and look ahead to upcoming data and capabilities that will help us better understand not only our Milky Way, but also the role it can play in the question of galaxy evolution.