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Over the past 13 billion years the dark matter and atoms have formed via gravity into a variety of structures (galaxies, groups, filaments), comprised a variety of mass forms (dark matter halos, stars, gas, dust, super-massive black holes), and produced a significant amount of energy (predominantly starlight and active galactic nucleus [AGN] light). Within the Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) project we are attempting to understand the physics unpinning this evolution from a smooth distribution of atoms to a very lumpy distribution of galaxies.

To do this we use data from the worlds leading ground and space-based telescopes which include: GALEX, VST, VISTA, WISE, HERSCHEL and very soon the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder located in Western Australia.

The team at UWA consists of more than eight researchers working on various aspects of this project including: group and filament finding, structural analysis (bulge-disc decomposition) of galaxies, measuring and modelling the energy outputs, quantifying the various mass components (gas, stars and dust), comparing to numerical and hydro-dynamical simulations, and preparing for the next generation spectroscopic campaigns.

Prospective students are sought to join the project and potentially work on any aspect of this program. The student will be trained observational cosmology, galaxy fundamentals, and rigorous statistical analysis of big data sets (a generic 21st century skill). The work will include the use of extensive databases, development of sophisticated software pipelines, advanced visualisation methods, and image analysis.

The student will also be expected to participate in observing runs at remote telescope locations inside and outside of Australia, processing of space satellite imagery, and become part of the extended GAMA team which now includes over 100 researchers across 30 countries and 4 continents.

Particular projects are:

  • Accurate galaxy decomposition to quantify the amount of mass in each distinct component, identify when specific structures such as bars or bulges formed and to develop a model for the evolution of mass and elements over cosmic time (i.e., the emergence of the periodic table)
  • Modelling the energy output of galaxies from the far-UV to the far-IR and comparison to extensive multi-wavelength data. Here we look to produce a model describing the complete energy output of the Universe since the Big Bang phase including star-formation, AGN activity and dust reprocessing.
  • The combination of deep radio data with optical catalogues to quantify gas-to-stellar mass ratios, and the evolution of neutral hydrogen over the past 5 billion years.

Other projects include the study of galaxy merger rates, group dynamics, filament finding, and testing Cold Dark Matter simulations. Previous students are either engaged in permanent positions in astronomy research around the world, working in sectors which support this research, or are working in industry applying their statistical analysis skills in diverse areas (from malaria research to cancer research, hedge-fund management, weather forecasting, and the civil service).

 The portion of the observable universe being sampled by surveys in which we are, or have been, closely involved. The ICRAR team is the world leader in spectroscopic surveys and galaxy image analysis.

The portion of the observable universe being sampled by surveys in which we are, or have been, closely involved. The ICRAR team is the world leader in spectroscopic surveys and galaxy image analysis.

An example of our new image analysis code for measuring the structure of galaxies. The panels from left to right show an original galaxy image, the model image, the residual image and a histogram of the pixels in the residual image. This information can be used to understand the formation and evolution of galaxies.

An example of our new image analysis code for measuring the structure of galaxies. The panels from left to right show an original galaxy image, the model image, the residual image and a histogram of the pixels in the residual image. This information can be used to understand the formation and evolution of galaxies.

Our recent measurement and model of the extragalactic background. The empirical measurements (red data points) and model fit (black line) essentially encapsulate all the energy generated within the Universe since decoupling, and which arises from star-formation & dust reprocessing (orange line), as well as AGN activity (cyan line).

Our recent measurement and model of the extragalactic background. The empirical measurements (red data points) and model fit (black line) essentially encapsulate all the energy generated within the Universe since decoupling, and which arises from star-formation & dust reprocessing (orange line), as well as AGN activity (cyan line).