Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards
Organisation: University of Leicester
Dates: Aug 2010-Jul 2015
Summary: I work on studying the way in which galaxies form in the universe, especially as seen using infrared radiation, that traces the material between the stars, out of which new stars form. By observing in this way, it is possible to get a complete picture of the amount of energy being produced by galaxies, and thus to better understand the links between the environment within and around the galaxy, and the activity that takes place within.
In particular, the properties of the most extreme objects, that are forming stars and fueling their central blackholes at the largest rate are particularly interesting. These examples are relatively easy to highlight using infrared techniques, as the most luminous galaxies tend to be heavily enshrouded in clouds of gas and dust that are opaque to visible light. The way in which energy and matter is cycled between gas and stars should be at its most dramatic in these objects, and thus their properties may provide an guide to understanding the properties of other more normal galaxies.
Hence, we can either see the most dramatic phases in the history of galaxy, taking place directly, and also potentially reveal a sequence of activity that involves a larger fraction of galaxies, from quiet, dynamically relaxed examples like our own galaxy to the most extreme, providing indications of the timescale over which this takes transformation takes place, and the fraction of time that galaxies spend forming stars in these different modes, quiescent or dramatic.
These interesting questions are able to motivate the construction of new tools, the training of new researchers, both in the field and in physics generally. The currently available WISE satellite data, with which I work, has also in parallel produced a new and improved map of asteroids, allowing a better understanding of impact hazard, which would likely not have occurred without the development of the wider science goals for the space mission.