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Galaxy Evolution Group: Research Themes

Primordial Galaxies
Hubble Space Telescope image of the GOODS-S field

Understanding the nature and the formation mechanism of the first galaxies in the early Universe is one of the main goals of modern Astrophysics. We are using deep observations at radio, millimeter (ALMA, IRAM) and infrared (SINFONI, KMOS) wavelengths to understand the nature of distant galaxies.

Our group has been particularly involved in the study of the gas content, chemical abundances and gradients and galaxy dynamics in the early stages of galaxy formation. 

Group Contacts: Dr. R. Smit, Dr. S. Carniani, Dr. M. Bothwell, Dr. R. Amorin, Dr. J. Wagg, Prof. R. Maiolino.


Artist’s rendering of an accreting black hole
Galaxy – Black Hole Coevolution

Galaxies and their central black holes evolve together in a fundamentally connected way. Gas heating and outflows driven by accreting supermassive black holes (active galactic nuclei, i.e. AGN) have been shown to substantially affect the evolution of star formation in their host galaxy.

Our group has lead the way in the study of massive molecular outflows in AGN hosts, both locally and at high redshift, by tracing the gas dynamics through infrared and millimeter observations. We have have expertise in the study of the gas kinematics in quasars and Seyfert galaxies in the rest frame optical using a variety of facilities (SINFONI, soon MaNGA).

Group Contacts: Dr. S. Carniani, Prof. R. Maiolino.


Nature or Nurture? 
Large-scale structure unveiled by large galaxy surveys.

In addition to internal processes, it has long been established that galactic environment plays an critical role in determining the properties of galaxies.

It has also recent become clear that galaxy-wide star formation is driven by the interplay of several complex physical processes, including inflows of pristine gas and outflows of metal-enriched gas due to supernovae and/or AGN. These 'feedback' processes play and crucial role in the modern understanding of galaxy evolution.

By studying the relationship between galaxies and their environments (both locally and in the distant Universe), their star formation properties and chemical abundances and building physically-motivated evolution models our group aims to shed new light on the processes shaping galaxy evolution.

Group ContactsF. Belfiore, Prof. R. Maiolino


The starburst galaxy M82, which expels dust and metal enriched gas out of its disk
The Life Cycle of Galaxies

The interstellar medium (ISM) plays a central role in galaxy evolution, providing the fuel for star formation and also hosting the “fossil record” of the galaxy formation history.

A range of modern facilities are used to investigate the evolution of the ISM; atomic gas with the JVLA (and, in the future, the SKA), molecular gas with ALMA and IRAM, and cool dust with Herschel.

The ISM also carries an imprint of past star formation activity, in the form of its metal enrichment. By measuring chemical abundances, both locally and in the distant Universe, we can investigate the effect galaxy formation and evolution models throughout cosmic history. Modern Integral Field Spectroscopy surveys (like SDSS-IV MaNGA) promise to completely revolutionise our understanding of the field.

Group Contacts: Dr. M. Bothwell, F. Belfiore, Prof. R. Maiolino.