The tenuous medium in between galaxies contains most of the matter in the universe. The enrichment of this intergalactic medium (IGM) with elements heavier than helium, which are all formed in stars, is closely related to several questions central to astrophysical cosmology. We propose to carry out a 4-year research program that will provide accurate measurements of the abundances of heavy elements in the IGM and a much better understanding of feedback from star formation, the most poorly understood aspect of galaxy formation. We will also gain insight into the nature of the first stars, the relative importance of starlight and light from accretion flows onto black holes, and the mechanism by which heavy elements are dispersed throughout the universe. We will adopt an innovative, multi-disciplinary approach, making use of both high-quality observations and state-of-the-art numerical simulations. We will carry out global analyses of quasar absorption spectra using novel techniques, as well as studies of absorption by individual, highly enriched, intergalactic gas clouds. The former will be interpreted using cosmological simulations, while the latter will be compared with targeted simulations of various astrophysical phenomena. The required observations and access to high-performance computers have already been secured.Our team will consist of the team leader (Schaye), one doctoral student, one post-doc, who will all be based at Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, and several experienced researchers who will visit Leiden for up to one month per year. We will make special efforts to maximise the national and gender diversity of the team. The award of a Grant to this team would:
(1) Enable the formation of a European team which will carry out cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research;
(2) Result in the permanent return of the team leader to the EU from Princeton (USA);
(3) Provide international research opportunities for a number of highly talented Europeans.
Call for proposal
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