Research

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The ESO Fellows carry out independent astronomical research with the ultimate goal to understand how planets, stars and galaxies in the Universe form and evolve. 

Below is a description of the main research carried out by each Fellow divided according to the main scientific areas at ESO: Site Testing, Planets, Star Formation in the Milky Way, Stellar Structure and Evolution, Evolution of Galaxies and Interstellar Medium.

Site Testing

Gianluca Lombardi. My main scientific interest is astronomical Site Surveys, in particular for what concerns the analysis of the astroclimate and the atmospheric turbulence profiles. Currently, I am supervising the E-ELT site testing campaigns in Northern Chile and Argentina.

Planets

John Carter. I study the surface composition of planetary bodies of the Solar System, with a particular stress on alteration minerals which form from the interaction of water/ice and silicate rocks. I work on space-borne and ground-based integral field spectrometers coupled to high-resolution imagery.

Petr Kabath. My scientific work is focused on detection and characterization of extrasolar planets with photometric and spectroscopic methods. In addition, I am interested in physics of variable stars.

Noe Kains. I work on the detection of extrasolar planets using gravitational microlensing. In particular I am interested in the development of modelling and statistical methods that allow us to characterise microlensing signals in real time, and ensure that short anomalies corresponding to planetary signals are not missed by observers. Utlimately, this will allow us to probe the population of cold, low-mass planets that is out of the reach of the other methods, and provide us with insights into planet abundances. I also work on modelling the evolution of debris discs, and am involved in a survey of variables in globular clusters.

Pierre Vernazza. Observations of small Solar System bodies (mainly asteroids, sometimes TNOs) at different wevelengths (from visible to the Mid IR) and  Mercury with various telescopes (NTT, VLT, IRTF, TNG, Spitzer, SOFIA) in my research. Ion irradiation experiments of meteorites in order to reproduce the space conditions on these asteroid pieces.

Star Formation in the Milky Way

Joana Ascenso. My research is focused on the processes of star formation in clusters and complexes. The influence of the environment in the formation of large collections of stars is not yet understood, even though a large fraction of all stars is believed to have formed in association with others. I use mostly near-infrared, high-resolution imaging to characterize and study galactic (giant) star forming regions and young clusters.

Amelia Bayo. My main research interest is star formation at both ends of the mass function. In particular most of my projects are related to the formation of low mass stars and brown dwarfs. I am also interested in the evolution of the disks around solar type stars. In particular I am part of the Herschel Open Time Key Program DUNES that tries to find and characterize Kuiper-belt analogs around nearby solar type stars. Besides, I am interested in trying to better understand the relationship of the disks with their host stars by comparing the time scales of these transitions in solar type stars with those of lower mass stars and brown dwarfs.

Giacomo Beccari. My current research activity is mainly focused on the study of resolved stellar populations in star clusters, from young star-burst clusters to old globular clusters. As spectacular examples of clustered star formation, galactic young (<10Myr) star clusters allow us to investigate the physical properties of Pre Main Sequence stars and the physics of accreting protoplanetary disks down to sub-solar mass regime. On the other side I investigate galactic globular clusters internal dynamics through the study of their
population of binaries and binaries by-products (stellar exotica), like Blue Straggle Stars, Cataclysmic Variables, Millisecond Pulsars and the intermediate-mass black hole.

Roberto Galvan-Madrid. My research is mainly on the formation of massive stars -- those with more than about 10 times the mass of the Sun -- in our Galaxy, as well as of the clusters in which they form. These stars are scarce but they are powerful enough to shape the Galactic ecosystem. By using radio- and sub(mm) telescopes, I try to make detailed observational studies of the star-forming gas.  My approach is to trace this gas all the way from the natal molecular clouds with sizes of several hundreds of thousands of astronomical units (AU), to the accretion disks that surround these stars at scales of hundreds or thousands of AU.  I am also interested in the formation of low-mass stars (in particular in the connection between disk accretion and jet ejection), masers, radiative-transfer modeling and simulations of radio and (sub)mm observations, and in bridging the gap between Galactic and extragalactic studies of star formation.

Ciriaco Goddi. The main focus of my research is the formation of high-mass stars. Although high-mass stars are prominent in the ecology of the ISM and the evolution of galaxies, there is no general theory of high-mass star formation. In particular, the balance of forces in proximity to young stellar objects has been difficult to infer because large distances, high extinctions, and clustering hinder attempts to resolve the structure and dynamics at small radii where outflows are launched and collimated from accretion disks. Examining this region has been the focus of my research during my fellowship at ESO.

Sylvain Guieu. I study low mass stars, brown dwarfs and young stellar objects in star forming regions.

Annaelle Maury. My research activities focus on observing and analysing the properties of the youngest low-mass protostars, so as to investigate the role of different physical ingredients to form stars like our own Sun. Since these objects are still embedded in their pristine dusty cocoon, I mainly use radio to infrared telescopes (Spitzer, Herschel, IRAM 30m/PdBI, SMA, ALMA) to observe them, and compare my observations to the predictions of both analytical theories and numerical simulations describing protostellar formation.

Koraljka Muzic. My research interests include formation and evolution of low-mass stars and brown dwarfs, the shape and the origin of the IMF, and the studies of the central parsecs of the Milky Way.

Steve Longmore. My research seeks to understand one of the fundamental processes in the Universe, and a cornerstone of astrophysics and cosmology: the conversion of gas into stars. Specifically, my approach is to use our Galaxy as a template to reveal how this process varies as a function of environment across cosmological timescales. To this end, I'm involved in several large Galactic Plane surveys, observing both molecular line emission with the Mopra telescope in Australia and far-IR continuum emission with the HiGAL survey on the Herschel satellite. The aim of these surveys is to derive the physical, chemical and kinematic properties of a large fraction of the dense molecular gas -- the raw material for forming stars and planets -- across the Galaxy. Through follow-up observations of well-selected sub-samples with mm and sub-mm interferometers like ATCA, the SMA and ALMA I hope to understand if/how the physics driving star formation varies as a function of environment.

Javier A. Rodón. My research focus mainly in galactic high-mass star formation at mm wavelengths, but I am also interested in disks around high and low-mass stars, astrochemistry and astrobiology.

Loredana Spezzi. My research is devoted to the investigation of the properties of young low-mass stars and brown dwarfs and their circumstellar disks, both in our Milky Way and in the Magellanic clouds. These studies aim at clarifying the star formation mechanism, its dependency on specific star forming conditions (such as metallicity, presence of strong radiation fields, etc.) and, in particular, to identify the specific conditions leading to the formation of planets in circumstellar disk and assess how frequently they do accur. My approach is mainly observational. I make extensive use of both imaging and spectroscopic data from ESO ground-based telescopes and satellite observatories (HST, Spitzer, Herschel).

Stellar Structure and Evolution

David Jones. His research is primarily focused on the formation and evolution of planetary nebulae, particularly the role played by binary stars.

Eric Lagadec. My research focusses on the formation of dust around evolved stars. I study how metallicity affect dust formation by observing evolved stars in Globular Clusters and Local Group Galaxiesusing infrared and millimeter spectroscopy. I also study the impact of binarity on dust formation around evolved stars using high angular resolution techniques for stars in the Milky Way.

Andrea Mehner. My scientific interests lie in the different phases of evolved very massive stars.

Matthias Maercker. The evolution of low- and intermediate mass stars on the Asymptotic Giant Branch with a focus on the details of the mass-loss mechanism and the chemistry in the circumstellar envelopes. I have in particular been working on modelling the emission lines from water-vapour in the circumstellar envelopes around M-type AGB stars and characterising the detached shells observed around a handfull of carbon stars. A further interest is high-mass star formation.

Fabien Patru. My main research interest is focussed on stellar physics by using interferometry techniques. I am involved on AMBER programs to study the stellar surface structures of red giants and the circumstellar environment of miras and cepheids. I also study the direct imaging capabilities of future large arrays of telescopes using the hypertelescope concept.

Anthony Rushton. My research involves studying the fundamental physical processes that describe how black holes interact with our Galaxy. I am particularly interested in understanding how powerful radio jets are ejected from accretion discs around Galactic stellar-mass black holes. I also study the radio source at the Galactic Centre (Sgr A*), to search for the presence of a weak jet.

Rodolfo Smiljanic. In my research, I use high-resolution spectroscopy to determine atmospheric parameters and chemical abundances in low- and intermediate-mass stars. This information is then used to investigate the physical processes affecting the structure and evolution of stars, and the formation and evolution of the Galaxy and its stellar populations. I am also interested on the chemical properties of planet-host stars. The goal is to understand both how the composition of a star affects the presence of planets, and how the planets affect the composition of the star.

Maja Vučković. With the primary research interest in studying the origin and evolution of hot subdwarf B stars, my research focuses on probing the internal structure of pulsating sdB stars through the interpretation of their frequency spectra. In addition to asteroseismology my research encompasses studying binary stellar evolution, in particular post common envelope ejection systems.

Roger Wesson. My research now focusses on the formation of dust by supernovae and their progenitors.

Formation and Evolution of Galaxies - Cosmology

Manuel Aravena. My main research interests are the study of the formation of distant galaxies and their interstellar medium using multi-wavelengths datasets (e.g. the COSMOS field), and submm and radio telescopes and interferometers.

Gabriel Brammer. My research is focused on the evolution of massive galaxies at z>1, studied primarily using deep near-infrared surveys.

Lodovico Coccato. Galaxy kinematics, dynamics and stellar population, with the aim to constrain their formation and evolution.

Luca Cortese.  My research is in the area of observational extragalactic astronomy, and my main interest is the study of the physical properties of galaxies and their dependence on redshift and environment using large, multi-wavelength datasets. The primary objective of my current work is to provide new insights into how galaxies form their stars, on the efficiency of this process and on the mechanisms behind the rapid quenching of the star formation in galaxies.  In order to reach this goal, I am heavily involved in multiwavelengths survey of nearby galaxies covering from the ultraviolet to the radio domain, thus providing unique information on the various stellar populations in galaxies and on the different components of the interstellar medium taking part in the star formation cycle (e.g., atomic and molecular hydrogen, dust, heavy elements, etc.).

Timothy A. Davis. My work focuses on the ISM of other galaxies, both in "red and NOT dead" early-type galaxies, and in extreme environments such as the starbursts found in merging galaxies. I work on understanding the origin (accretion, mergers, stellar mass loss) and fate of the ISM (star formation, quenching), and its chemical evolution. I have lead the ATLAS3D CARMA molecular gas imaging survey, and the followups of this survey and the VIXENS project. Furthermore I lead studies which use molecular gas as a kinematic tracer, both of galactic potentials (e.g. for the Tully-Fisher relation) and on smaller scales as a technique for measuring black-hole masses.

Caroline Foster. My research interests include abundances and kinematics of nearby galaxies and their globular clusters. I am also interested in gas-phase metallicities and the evolution of the mass-metallicity relationship of star forming galaxies.

Dimitri Gadotti. My work focus on bulges of disc galaxies, barred galaxies, dwarf galaxies, supermassive black holes and AGN activity, comparing measurements of the dynamics and structure of stellar systems to theoretical models, and thus trying to understand how such systems came to be. I am author of the BUDDA code, a public available software to perform detailed structural analysis of galaxies.

Davor Krajnovic. Understanding the formation and evolution of galaxies means to comprehend the complex history of the Universe and to place our own Solar system into a broader context of the Galaxy and the intricate play of births and deaths of stars. My approach to this complex problem is through observations and construction of dynamical models of galaxies. My current research focuses on observations of nearby galaxies which can be spatially resolved and scrutinised for the fossil record of physical processes throughout their past evolution. In particular, I am currently co-leading the ATLAS3D Project, a multi-wavelength survey of a volume-limited and complete sample of 260 early-type (elliptical and lenticular) galaxies. My interest focuses on the kinematics of stars and various gas phases (ionised, atomic and molecular) and analysis of structural parameters of ATLAS3D galaxies. I am also leading several programs using ground-based, laser guide star adaptive optics assisted observations at the VLT and Gemini North telescopes, with the purpose of determining the masses of supermassive black holes in early-type galaxies.

Mirko Krumpe. I am doing research in observational cosmology and high energy astrophysics. My research interests are mainly in understanding how and where Active Galactic Nuclei (AGNs - accreting super-massive black holes in the center of galaxies) form in the Universe. Since AGNs are so bright, they can be seen across almost the whole Universe and can be used as tracers of matter in the Universe across cosmological time. In one of my current projects, I measure the distribution of AGNs in the Universe. This allows constraints on why and what kind of normal galaxies turn into an AGN and how AGNs co-evolve with their host galaxies. Furthermore, I am studying a particular class of AGNs, the so-called Compton-thick AGNs, that are surrounded by so much gas and dust that it is extremely difficult to detect them at all. However, this class of AGNs could make up a large fraction of all AGNs in the Universe and is needed to explain the observed spectrum of the cosmic X-ray background.

Sergio Martin. My main research interest is the chemical composition and differentiation in the nuclei of galaxies and the Galactic Center. He is also interested in automatic molecular line identification and modelling.

Myriam Rodrigues. My main topic of research is the formation and evolution of galaxies. In particular, she is interested on the evolution of the interstellar medium and stellar populations. I also work on the properties of SNe Ia and GRB host.

Rubén Sanchez-Janssen. My main research interest is the study of galaxy evolution across mass and environment. More precisely, my research focuses on the properties of galaxy populations -from BCGs to the faintest dwarfs- in high density environments such as galaxy clusters and fossil groups. My other main research topics are dwarf galaxies in general: their abundance and characteristics, and the evolutionary scenarios between the different dwarf types.

Vernesa Smolcic. Galaxy evolution, radio AGN, star formation (SMGs), galaxy clusters, survey science (SDSS, NVSS, FIRST, IRAS, COSMOS, XXL, LSST), multi-wavelength follow-up.

Grant Tremblay. I work on active galactic nucleus (AGN) feedback and its role in (1) mediating the coupled evolution of a central black hole and its host galaxy stellar component; and (2) balancing runaway radiative cooling, inhibiting star formation, and excavating buoyant X-ray cavities in "cool core" clusters of galaxies. I also work on triggering, star formation, and observational dichotomies in powerful radio galaxies, framed in the context of unification schemes, jet propagation, and accretion modes.

Jeff Wagg. My main area of research is the study of cold dust and gas in high-redshift galaxies using facilities like the APEX, the SMA, the PdBI, the GBT, the VLA, the JCMT and the IRAM 30m.

Mark Westmoquette. Starburst feedback is one of the primary drivers of gas flows in galaxies, and is important for many reasons within the context of galaxy evolution. In my research I work towards determining the ISM conditions both within the cores of nearby starburst galaxies and in their resulting outflows, with an aim of understanding the physical mechanisms of galactic-scale feedback. With high spatial and spectral resolution optical/near-IR integral field spectroscopic observations, we are building up an overall picture of how starburst-driven outflows evolve from pc-kpc scales. More specifically, I concentrate my research on (1) how power (radiative and mechanical) is fed from star clusters into their immediate environment; and (2) how the ionized gas flows evolve structurally and energetically towards the larger-scales.

Irina Yegorova. My research interests are focused on galaxies structure, formation and evolution. In particular, on the distribution of dark and luminous matter and their effects on the process of galaxy formation.