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Galaxy growth has occurred mostly over the last 10 billion years, during which about 80 percent of the stellar mass in the cosmos was assembled. Over the same period we also observe the most drastic changes to galaxies’ morphologies, with the emergence of the Hubble Sequence and the transition of the star-forming population from rapidly star-forming, gas-rich disks, with high levels of chaotic motions, and peculiar systems, to the comparatively quiescent, rotation-dominated spiral galaxies common in the local Universe. The same 10 billion years see fundamental changes in the balance of luminous and dark matter in galaxies, evidenced by the evolution with time of key dynamical galaxy scaling relations.

An example of the use of integral field spectroscopy (IFS) for a star-forming galaxy about 8 billion light years from Earth. Left: The Hubble Space Telescope image for the galaxy. Middle: The H-alpha emission line intensity for the galaxy from IFS (tracing the gas surrounding young stars). Right: The line-of-sight velocity field from IFS, suggesting the galaxy is rotating.

The origins of these changes to galaxies are in many cases still unclear, as are the physical processes that underpin them. To address these gaps in our understanding this project will use integral field spectroscopy (IFS), a revolutionary new technology that allows the simultaneous capture of images and spectra and is currently transforming our understanding of galaxies. The student for this project will combine large volumes of IFS data from state-of-the-art facilities at the European Southern Observatory and Anglo-Australian Telescope, including KMOS and SAMI, with high spatial-resolution ground- and space-based imaging and photometry to provide a spatially-resolved, three-dimensional view of galaxy evolution over the last 10 billion years. The aim will be to trace the chemistry, kinematics, and matter content of galaxies across 70% of cosmic history to determine how and why these building blocks of the Universe change so dramatically during this time.

Left: Observing with SAMI at the AAT. Credit: Ángel R. López-Sánchez (Australian Astronomical Observatory / Macquarie University). Right: The Milky Way over the ESO VLT, on which KMOS is mounted. Credit: ESO / A. Ghizzi Panizza

The project will primarily follow an observational approach to the study of galaxies and their evolution. The student will join a well-established group of world-leading researchers at ICRAR/UWA investigating galaxy evolution using the most advanced instruments and telescopes across the globe. They will gain an expert knowledge in the reduction and analysis of optical and near-infrared IFS data, working with imaging and photometry from ground- and space-based facilities, and in the interpretation of integrated and spatially-resolved galaxy properties and kinematics. The project will provide opportunities for the student to develop robust proficiency in coding with modern languages, and in the reduction and analysis of large observational astronomy data sets. There will also be the chance for the student to collaborate with in-house expert theorists to compare their observational results to cutting-edge galaxy formation simulations being developed at at ICRAR/UWA.

Additional Links:

What is IFS?

The SAMI Galaxy Survey

The KMOS Redshift One Spectroscopic Survey


Associate Researchers

Dr Barbara Catinella

Senior Research Fellow

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