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One of the most outstanding challenges in extragalactic astronomy is to identify the astrophysical processes responsible for transforming simple gas clouds into the heterogeneous population of galaxies inhabiting today’s Universe. How did galaxies of different types form and evolve? Does the environment where a galaxy lives influence its evolution?  Inevitably, the answers to these questions entail a detailed investigation of all the components of the interstellar medium (gas, dust, metals) and their relation to stellar properties, kinematics and environment. This clearly requires multi-wavelength information for statistically significant samples of galaxies across the cosmic web, which are becoming available only now. In particular, until very recently, astronomers have struggled to understand the link between stellar and gas kinematics, morphology and star formation.

 

In this project, the student will take advantage of data from one of the largest optical integral-field spectroscopic survey to date (the SAMI Galaxy Survey) to determine how the kinematical properties of galaxies influence galaxy evolution. S/He will establish if morphological transformations are always driven by a change in the kinematical properties of galaxies and will quantify the link between stellar and gas kinematics and star formation activity in galaxies across environments. This project is mainly observational, and the student will acquire skills in reduction and interpretation of multi-wavelength data (with also opportunity to carry out SAMI observations at the telescope). Moreover, the student will be able to collaborate with the theory group at ICRAR/UWA to compare his/her findings with the predictions from the most advanced cosmological simulations.

Galaxies in transformation discovered by the ICRAR/UWA group. Left: The comet (or jelly-fish) galaxy, an extraordinary object infalling into the centre of a cluster. The tail departing from the galaxy is made of clusters of new stars formed within the gas stripped from the galaxy (Cortese et al. 2007). Right: The compact group of galaxies showing the highest star formation rate density ever observed in the local Universe. The features highlighted in blue represent streams of ionised gas that extends for almost hundred thousands light-years outside the galaxies (Cortese et al. 2006).

Galaxies in transformation discovered by the ICRAR/UWA group. Left: The comet (or jelly-fish) galaxy, an extraordinary object infalling into the centre of a cluster. The tail departing from the galaxy is made of clusters of new stars formed within the gas stripped from the galaxy (Cortese et al. 2007). Right: The compact group of galaxies showing the highest star formation rate density ever observed in the local Universe. The features highlighted in blue represent streams of ionised gas that extends for almost hundred thousands light-years outside the galaxies (Cortese et al. 2006).

Associated Researchers

Dr Barbara Catinella

Senior Research Fellow

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