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Galaxies: Rise And Death (GRAD)

Carlsbergfondets postdoc-stipendier i Danmark

What

Galaxies are the building blocks of the Universe and the cradles of life, containing billions of stars and planets. These systems are far from being immobile and immutable objects: similarly to any living organisms, galaxies were born some time in the past; they grow and age and they eventually die. My project is designed exactly to study how galaxies lived their lives: growing regularly and peacefully, then slowly passing away? Or through a furious assembly of most of their stars, followed by an abrupt cessation of their existence?

Why

The rise and death of massive galaxies are two of the most compelling and hotly debated problems in galaxy evolution with several plausible solutions. Understanding the cycle of galactic life is at the core of our efforts to elaborate a comprehensive picture of our Cosmos. New powerful facilities such as the ALMA interferometer and the James Webb Space Telescope will soon allow us to directly tackle these questions. This exciting journey will ultimately lead us to understand how our own home, the Milky Way, and other nearby galaxies formed and evolved. My project aims to contribute to the depiction of a holistic and coherent history of galaxy formation within the current cosmological framework.

How

By using the most exquisite telescopes, harvesting the whole range of the electromagnetic spectrum, I will collect information on the nature and physical properties of massive galaxies. First, the modes of galaxy growth will be revealed by accurately measuring the amount of cold gas available for the formation of new stars and its conditions. On the other hand, different agents responsible for the death of a galaxy leave various imprints on the observed physical properties. Observations of the gas and stellar content of the first dead galaxies will shed light on the most plausible mechanisms ending their life.

SSR

Besides a long history of fruitful impact on industrial and everyday life technology, astrophysics has multiple effects on our society and its members: it generates awe and stimulates genuine curiosity about how nature works, it deals with some of the most profound questions about our origin and future, and it places us in the context of our Universe and its vastness. In particular, the study of galaxies and their lifecycle helps us understand how our own Milky Way and its stars and planets formed and how common this is in the Universe, giving us a large-scale perspective on our history and actions.