The goal of this project is to discover the first galaxies that formed after the Big Bang. The astrophysics of galaxy formation is deeply fascinating. From tiny density fluctuations of quantum mechanical nature believed to have formed during an inflationary period a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang during structure slowly formed through gravitational collapse. This process is strongly dependent on the nature of the dominant, but unknown form of matter - the dark matter. In the project proposed here I will study the epoch of first galaxy formation and the subsequent few billion years of cosmic evolution using gamma-ray bursts and Lyman-α (Lyα) emitting galaxies as probes. I am the principal investigator on two observational projects utilizing these probes. In the first project, I will over three years starting October 2009 be using the new X-shooter spectrograph on the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope to build a sample of ~100 gamma-ray bursts with UV/optical/near-IR spectroscopic follow-up. The objective of this project is to measure primarily metallicities, molecular content, and dust content of the gamma-ray burst host galaxies. I am primarily interested in the redshift range from 9 to 2 corresponding to about 500 million years to 3 billions years after the Big Bang. In the 2nd project we will use the new European Southern Observatory survey telescope VISTA. I am co-PI of the Ultra-VISTA project that over the next 5 years starting December 2009 will create an ultradeep image (about 2000 hr of total integration time) of a piece of sky known as the COSMOS field. I am responsible for the part of the project that will use a narrow-band filter to search for Lyα emitting galaxies at a redshift of 8.8 (corresponding to about 500 million years after the Big Bang) - believed to correspond to the epoch of formation of some of the very first galaxies.
Fields of science
- natural sciencesphysical sciencesastronomyastrophysicsdark matter
- natural sciencesphysical sciencesastronomyobservational astronomyinfrared astronomy
- natural sciencesphysical sciencesastronomyphysical cosmologygalaxy formation and evolution
- natural sciencesphysical sciencesastronomyphysical cosmologybig bang
Call for proposal
See other projects for this call