Modeling Spatially and Spectrally Resolved Observations to Diagnose the Formation of Elliptical Galaxies

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Modeling Spatially and Spectrally Resolved Observations to Diagnose the Formation of Elliptical Galaxies

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Title: Modeling Spatially and Spectrally Resolved Observations to Diagnose the Formation of Elliptical Galaxies
Author: Snyder, Gregory Frantz
Citation: Snyder, Gregory Frantz. 2013. Modeling Spatially and Spectrally Resolved Observations to Diagnose the Formation of Elliptical Galaxies. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: In extragalactic astronomy, a central challenge is that we cannot directly watch what happens to galaxies before and after they are observed. This dissertation focuses on linking predictions of galaxy time-evolution directly with observations, evaluating how interactions, mergers, and other processes affect the appearance of elliptical galaxies. The primary approach is to combine hydrodynamical simulations of galaxy formation, including all major components, with dust radiative transfer to predict their observational signatures. The current paradigm implies that a quiescent elliptical emerges following a formative starburst event. These trigger accretion onto the central supermassive black hole (SMBH), which then radiates as an active galactic nucleus (AGN). However, it is not clear the extent to which SMBH growth is fueled by these events nor how important is their energy input at setting the appearance of the remnant. This thesis presents results drawing from three phases in the formation of a typical elliptical: 1) I evaluate how to disentangle AGN from star formation signatures in mid-infrared spectra during a dust-enshrouded starburst, making testable predictions for robustly tracing SMBH growth with the James Webb Space Telescope ; 2) I develop a model for the rate of merger-induced post-starburst galaxies selected from optical spectra, resolving tension between their observed rarity and merger rates from other estimates; and 3) I present results from Hubble Space Telescope imaging of elliptical galaxies in galaxy clusters at 1 < z < 2, the precursors of present-day massive clusters with \(M \sim10^{15}M_{\odot}\), demonstrating that their stars formed over an extended period and ruling out the simplest model for their formation history. These results lend support to a stochastic formation history for ellipticals driven by mergers or interactions. However, significant uncertainties remain in how to evaluate the implications of galaxy appearance, in particular their morphologies across cosmic time. In the final chapter, I outline an approach to build a "mock observatory" from cosmological hydrodynamical simulations, with which observations of all types, including at high spatial and spectral resolutions, can be brought to bear in directly constraining the physics of galaxy formation and evolution.
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Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:11124849
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