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New SPIRE/Herschel data (courtesy of Herschel/HerMES)

 New SPIRE/Herschel image (courtesy of Herschel/HerMES)

Galaxy Formation and Evolution

In the current cosmological paradigm, early fluctuations of the dark matter distribution grow into stable structures (halos), attracting baryonic matter that cools, triggering star formation. Halos merge to form larger galaxies, which develop a spheroidal, stellar component and inflowing cooling gas or dark matter collapse to spawn a central, massive black hole. The relationship between the mass of the black hole and that of the surrounding spheroid can be explained if the black hole regulates the star formation via some feedback mechanism. The ‘baryon physics’ comprising gas collapse, star and black hole formation and subsequent feedback, is the main bottleneck in our understanding of galaxy formation.

Our group includes experts in both the theoretical and observational sides of star formation in galaxies, chemical enrichment and AGN physics. MSSL has recently expanded its research in this theme, with the emphasis on the analysis of data from the ongoing and future missions in which MSSL plays a key role.

The coming period will see spectacular advances in this field. Imminently, Herschel will open a new window of exploration in the far infrared Universe. Amongst a number of UK groups, MSSL has played a major role in the Herschel SPIRE instrument. MSSL staff has been a leader in designing the major guaranteed-time extragalactic survey HerMES to be carried out with Herschel and which will be transformational for studies in this science area.

From 2012, Gaia will reveal the kinematics and chemical abundances of our own Galaxy in unprecedented accuracy. MSSL have also had major roles in both the mission development of Gaia and in the data processing consortium for the spectroscopy, which places us optimally to exploit that mission. On one hand, we will test theories of galaxy formation with our observations of the distant Universe ‘as it happened’ and on the other hand, we will confront theories for the chemical and dynamical evolution of galaxies with the fossil record in the form of the present day Milky Way.

Related MSSL projects

Staff active in these research areas

Boudreault, Cropper, Ferreras, Inoue, Kawata, Page, Matsuura, Saxton, Seabroke, Seymour, Soria, Symeonidis, Wu