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The dawn of galaxy formation

Grant number: 18/02444-7
Support type:Research Grants - Visiting Researcher Grant - Brazil
Duration: August 01, 2018 - July 31, 2019
Field of knowledge:Physical Sciences and Mathematics - Astronomy
Principal Investigator:João Evangelista Steiner
Grantee:João Evangelista Steiner
Visiting researcher: Roderik Adriaan Overzier
Visiting researcher institution: Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação (Brasil). Observatório Nacional (ON), Brazil
Home Institution: Instituto de Astronomia, Geofísica e Ciências Atmosféricas (IAG). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:11/51680-6 - Exploring the universe: from the galaxies formation to Earth-like planets with the Giant Magellan Telescope, AP.ESP

Abstract

This project will focus on the physics of galaxy formation during the earliest phase of the universe that can be probed with current and upcoming astronomical instrumentation. We will study the period of cosmic time that begins at 'cosmic dawn', the first few hundred millions of years when the first stars and galaxies were born, and ends roughly at 'cosmic noon', about 7 billion years later when the universe had reached about half of its current age and massive galaxy formation was largely completed. The 'cosmic dawn' is particularly interesting for galaxy evolution and cosmology because it coincides with the 'epoch of re-ionisation' (EoR). During the EoR, the baryonic contents of the universe (mainly H and He) transitioned from completely neutral to completely ionised. Because the timing of the EoR is determined by the rate of ionising photons produced by the first stars, galaxies and black holes, the EoR is closely connected to the rate of structure growth in the universe (which depends on cosmology). Therefore, studying the EoR also tells the story of the formation of the first galaxies, and vice versa. The visiting researcher has been collaborating with colleagues at USP/IAG intensively over the past 5 years in FAPESP-funded projects such as the Prime Focus Spectrograph (PFS) for Subaru and the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT; FAPESP is a 5% partner). This visit planned for 2018/2019 is particularly timely because of the upcoming launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (late 2018) and the finalisation of the PFS strategic survey program definition, which are expected to have a large impact on observational studies of the early universe. (AU)