Thesis Topic: The colourful past and dark side of the Fornax galaxy cluster

Thesis Supervisors: Michael HilkerMariya LyubenovaGlenn van de Ven


The Fornax Clusters is a nearby galaxy cluster in the Southern hemisphere that is dominated by early-type galaxies in its core and is believed to be dynamically relaxed. Due to its proximity this cluster is an ideal laboratory to study the distribution and properties of low-mass stellar systems, including (ultra) faint dwarf galaxies, dwarf elliptical galaxies, (ultra) compact dwarf galaxies and globular clusters.

Since the seminal work of Ferguson et al. in the late 1980s, who established a membership catalog of Fornax galaxies based on photographic plates - the Fornax Cluster Catalog (FCC) - no complete and coherent survey of the whole cluster has been performed. This is changing now. An international team, with Drs Hilker, Lyubenova and Van de Ven as core members, has started to gather wide-field optical and infrared imaging data as well as spectroscopic data on the Fornax cluster, mainly based on observations with ESO telescopes (VLT, VST, VISTA). In particular, observations with the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) on dwarf and giant galaxies in the Fornax Cluster are available for performing cutting-edge science.

The goal is to characterise the full baryonic content of this cluster in order to uncover the assembly history of its members galaxies and their related globular cluster systems. Also the dark matter distribution within this cluster can be constrained by using the thousands of satellite dwarf galaxies and star clusters as kinematical tracers of the underlying gravitational potential.

This rich dataset provides ample opportunities for scientific exploitation within a PhD thesis. Objectives could be:

- Uncovering the star formation history in Fornax through the multi-colour view (ultraviolet though infrared) of its stellar populations 

- Mapping the distribution of stellar clusters in Fornax as fossil record of its assembly history

- Hunting for dynamical sub-structures in Fornax as smoking guns of its hierarchical build-up

- Constraining the dark matter distribution in Fornax with a diversity of kinematic tracers

- [your own idea!]

The PhD candidate will be part of an international collaboration with members all over Europe, North America and in Chile.

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