Project D

Distant galaxies in high definition - How starbursts and black holes impact the gas in galaxies

Gabriela Calistro Rivera, Gergo Popping & Paola Andreani

(email advisors)

Build the largest library of impressive images taken with the ALMA telescope at high-resolution. Discover how the shapes of galaxies are affected by extreme events such as starbursts and black holes.

Molecular gas is a fundamental ingredient in the formation of galaxies in the universe since it is the raw material out of which stars form. To understand the properties of the molecular gas, astronomers observe the emission of dust particles or molecules, such as the carbon monoxide molecule (CO), which emit brightly in the far-infrared / sub-millimetre regime of the electro-magnetic spectrum. The detailed high-fidelity observations from the most advanced (sub)millimeter telescope in the world, ALMA, is currently revolutionising our understanding of molecular gas in the Universe.

For many decades now, the true sizes of the molecular gas and dust-emitting regions have been a missing piece of information in our understanding of how galactic structures form. Sizes are also key to identify the regions where the most energetic events are in action, which heat up and excite the molecular gas, triggering or quenching the formation of stars. With the advent of the ALMA telescope it is now possible to resolve the detailed shape and distribution of the molecular gas in distant galaxies, and the few observations available are hidden treasures scattered within the ALMA archive.

In this project, the student will have the opportunity to work with observations of the impressive ALMA telescope, and data-mine eight years of archival data to produce the largest library of sizes/shapes of the molecular gas reservoirs in distant galaxies. In particular we will investigate how these sizes are affected by energetic events such as extreme starbursts or supermassive black holes, to characterise gas excitation conditions at high-resolution. The results will constitute the first statistical study to understand how molecular gas is distributed and excited within galaxies and will serve as a benchmark for future studies of galaxies in the early Universe.

#galaxies #starbursts #black-holes #gas #ALMA #python # bigdata #spectroscopy

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