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Galaxy Evolution Group: Research Projects


We are heavily exploiting the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), which is the largest large and most powerful astronomical facility operating in the millimeter/submillimeter wavelength range, to investigate the evolution of the gas content, and its dynamics, in galaxies at high redshift, including the most distant galaxies known, during the so-called epoch of re-ionization. These data are enabling to understand the physical processes responsible for the galaxy formation in the early universe.

Group contacts: R. Maiolino, S. Carniani.

Recent Highlights

The assembly of ‘normal’ galaxies at z=7 probed by ALMA, R. Maiolino, S. Carniani, et al. 2015, MNRAS, 452, 54. See the related ESO press release.

The Cosmic Infrared Background seen by ALMA, S. Carniani, R. Maiolino, et al. 2015, A&A accepted (arXiv:1502.00640).

Tracing the reionization epoch with ALMA:[CII] emission in z ~ 7 galaxies, Pentericci, Carniani et al., 2016, ArXiv.



MaNGA is one of the three new SDSS IV surveys, which started operations in Summer 2014 and is scheduled to last six years. MaNGA's ambitious goal is to deliver integral field optical spectra of 10,000 galaxies in the local universe. These will be used to spatially resolve the dynamics, stellar populations, metallicities, star formation rate, and other key parameters in galaxies spanning a wide range of physical properties (e.g. mass, age, star formation, environment) with unprecedented statistics. Our group is heavily involved in the resolved study of the properties of the ionised gas, including its ionisation state and metallicity, with the aim of gaining a deeper understanding of the processes that regulate galaxy-wide star formation.

Group contacts: F. Belfiore.

Recent Highlights:

see the group's MaNGA Page.

SDSS IV MaNGA - The spatially resolved transition between star formation and quiescence, Belfiore at al., 2017, MNRAS, 466, 2570.

 SDSS IV MaNGA - Spatially resolved diagnostic diagrams: a proof that many galaxies are LIERs, Belfiore at al., 2016, MNRAS, 461, 3111

P-MaNGA Galaxies: emission-lines properties - gas ionization and chemical abundances from prototype observations, Belfiore et al., 2015, MNRAS, 449, 867.

Overview of the SDSS-IV MaNGA Survey: Mapping nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory, Bundy et al., 2015, ApJ, 789, 1.



Our group has been leading several studies of high-redshift quasars using state-of-the-art near-IR integral field spectroscopy instrument on ESO VLT. These instruments allow us to study galaxies at the peak epoch of star formation (at redshifts between 1 and 3) making use of the redshifted strong optical nebular lines, tracing the ionised interstellar medium. In quasar host galaxies, we have studied the properties of powerful kpc-scale outflows. 

Group contact: S. Carniani

Recent Highlights:

Fast outflows and star formation in quasar host galaxies, Carniani et al., 2016, A&A, 591, 28.

An ultra-dense fast outflow in a quasar at z =2.4, Williams et al., 2016, ArXiv.

Tracing outflows in the AGN forbidden regions with SINFONI, Kakkad et al., 2016, A&A, 592, 148.



KLEVER (Kmos LEnsed Velocity and Emission line Review) is an ESO Large Programme exploiting the multi-IFU near-IR spectrograph KMOS at the Very Large Telescope. The goal is to obtain spatially resolved spectroscopy of a sample of about 200 galaxies, in the redshift range z~1-2.5. These new observations cover the three near-IR bands (J, H, K) in order to map all of the primary optical nebular lines, redshifted into the near-IR bands ([OII], [NeIII], He II, Hβ, [OIII], Hα, [NII], [SII], [SIII]). These observations will provide a detailed view of the physical properties of the ISM in high-redshift galaxies (excitation mechanism, chemical enrichment, ionization parameter, density) with an accuracy that has not been possible in previous large surveys (due to the lack of appropriate diagnostics).


Group contact: R. Maiolino, M.Curti



ALLSMOG is an ESO large programme aimed at determining the molecular gas content in a sample of 80 local galaxies by measuring the CO(2-1) transition with the APEX telescope. The sample includes galaxies spanning a wide range of stellar masses, HI masses and metallicities. The project will enable us to investigate the interplay between star formation, gas inflows and outflows, and metal enrichment. 


Group contact: M. Bothwell.

Recent Highlights:

ALLSMOG: an APEX Low-redshift Legacy Survey for MOlecular Gas - I. Molecular gas scaling relations, and the effect of the CO/H2 conversion factor, Bothwell et al., 2014, MNRAS, 445, 2599.

Molecular gas as the driver of fundamental galactic relations, Bothwell et al., 2015, accepted MNRAS  (arXiv:1507.01004).


We are also actively exploiting data from several observing projects at various facilities IRAM and at ESO-VLT (using the X-Shooter and MUSE instruments).

Past highlights include:


AMAZE is an ESO large programme, which has observed 40 star forming galaxies at 3<z<5 with the near-IR integral field spectrometer SINFONI at the ESO-VLT, with the goal of investigating the metallicity and dynamics of galaxies in the early Universe.


We are involved in some of the key extragalactic surveys of Herschel and in particular in the PACS Evolutionary Probe (PEP), which is a guaranteed time key programme aimed to study the restframe far-infrared emission of galaxies up to redshift ~3, as a function of environment. The survey has shed new light on the constituents of the cosmic IR background and their nature, on the co-evolution of AGN and starbursts, and  (together with the parallel HERMES – SPIRE programme) on the evolution of the dust content in galaxies.


Future Projects 



The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the successor of the Hubble Space Telescope, planned for launch in 2018. It is a joint project between NASA, ESA and  CSA. We are heavily involved in NIRSpec, the near infrared multi-object spectrograph. One of the main goals of the instrument is to identify and characterise the first galaxies formed in the early Universe and to track their evolution through the cosmic epoch by delivering the deepest spectra ever obtained for these objects in the near-IR range. 

For more information have a look at the recent seminar from P. Ferruit, JWST project scientist at ESA (SLIDES).

Group contact: R. Maiolino, S. Carniani, R. Amorin



MOONS is a near-IR multi-object spectrograph selected by ESO as third generation instrument for the Very Large Telescope. MOONS will obtain spectra of over a million galaxies at z>1, hence providing a high redshift equivalent of the SDSS. These spectra will enable the identification and characterisations of galaxies, at at the peak of cosmic star formation, spanning a wide range of physical properties and environments. Our team is involved both in the technical and scientific activities.

Group contact: R. Maiolino.



HIRES is the high resolution spectrograph planned for the European-Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). Some of the key science cases are the detection of the chemical fingerprints of the first generation of stars (PopIII) in the primordial universe, the variation of the fundamental constants of physics, and the detection and characterisation of exoplanet atmospheres.

Group contact: R. Maiolino.





We are involved in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the most ambitious project in radio astronomy. Please, visit the dedicated group page for information about the Cambridge related activities and involvement.

 Group contact: Prof. P. Alexander, Prof. C. Carilli, Dr. J. Wagg, Prof. R. Maiolino