Thesis Topic: Big Data Quasar Spectroscopy: AGN Outflows in a multi-dimensional space

 Thesis Supervisor: Vincenzo Mainieri (ESO)

 Additional advisors: Chris Harrison (ESO), Andrea Merloni (MPE)


Galactic growth is regulated by the mass and momentum exchange of galaxies with their surroundings. Galaxies acquire their mass and momentum predominantly via gas accretion from the intergalactic medium (IGM) and lose them via strong outflows driven by active galactic nuclei (AGN) or supernovae. AGN outflows are believed to be an important and effective mechanism of “feedback” by injecting energy into the interstellar medium - but it is still not observationally well constrained. Progress has been made at low redshift by analyzing rest-frame optical spectra to search for and to characterize ionized outflows in large samples of AGN from dedicated spectroscopic surveys. The main goal of this PhD project is to expand our understanding of this phenomena to the relatively unexplored distant Universe (z>0.5), where black hole growth is more prevalent and AGN outflows are expected to be fundamental in regulating galaxy growth.

The project will exploit the hundreds of near-IR spectra of distant AGN taken by ESO instruments. This unique dataset will be combined with the large numbers of quasar spectra from SDSS, by working directly with members of the ongoing SDSS-IV eBOSS and SPIDERS surveys. The unprecedented statistics of this sample will provide key constraints for galaxy formation models by characterizing AGN outflows (e.g., velocity, mass, metallicity) in relation to physical host-galaxy properties such as star-formation rate, black hole mass, accretion rate and environment. The project is naturally expected to move onto working with the spatially-resolved outflow and galaxy properties, thanks to the incredible capabilities of the ESO instruments and by working with directly scientists who are leading large multi-wavelength observational surveys.


Figure caption: Schematic diagram illustrating the relationships between fuel supply, galaxy growth and black hole growth
Figure reference: Chris Harrison (2017)