Thesis Topic: Formation of galactic nuclei

 Thesis Supervisor: Mariya Lyubenova


Over the past decade we learnt that many galaxies harbour nuclear star clusters (NSCs) in their centres. There is evidence that they can co-exist with super-massive black holes, like in the Milky Way. The relationship between the properties of these central objects and the properties of their host galaxies is likely to be fundamental as it connects quantities that differ by several orders of magnitude. NSCs, unlike black holes, preserve their (and the host galaxy's) evolutionary history imprinted in their stellar populations and kinematics.

In this project we will exploit a rich data set, consisting of integral field spectroscopic observations with VLT/SINFON (enhanced by the Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics system) and VLT/MUSE. The PhD candidate will have the opportunity to work on several exciting science projects, including (but no limited to): 

  • derive the detailed star formation history of the NSCs by comparing their spectra with novel stellar population models in the near-IR; 
  • reveal the stellar orbital structure of the NSCs via detailed dynamical models and recover traces of possible merger events;
  • quantify the co-existence of NSCs and super-massive black holes by probing the galaxies’ central gravitational potentials;

The outcomes of these projects will lay the path towards a better understanding of galaxy nuclei formation. In turn, this will enlighten us whether the scaling relations between galaxy nuclei and host galaxy properties are driven by physical processes, like black hole feedback, or statistical ones, involving many subsequent mergers of galaxies and their NSCs and/or black holes.