One of the biggest promises of astrophysics in the coming decades is to understand the history of our Galaxy and that of its immediate galactic vicinity. The European Union will play a key role in this effort through its cornerstone Gaia mission, which will map the Milky Way in unprecedented detail. Recovering the history of the Galaxy, however, will only be possible in concert with suitable theoretical models. We propose to carry out a research project at the University of Zurich, Institute for Theoretical Physics, in which we systematically explore effects vital for disk galaxy evolution - radial migration, substructure bombardment and gas accretion. These processes have always only been explored mostly in isolation from each other, and their combined effects on the evolution of a galactic disk are unknown. We will use proven state-of-the-art N-body + hydrodynamics methods to explore for the first time the interdependence of these processes. The goals of the project are: to fully characterize disk evolution in the combined presence of disk dynamics and substructure bombardment; to produce observational tests relevant to the Gaia mission of different galactic evolutionary histories; to generate observational predictions of stellar diffusion, in order to provide a direct test of radial mixing in the Galaxy; to understand how cosmological gas-fueling influences disk growth. Beyond the scientific goals, the project aims to facilitate the researcher's return to Europe after a decade abroad. He will be involved in one of the largest research centers of its type, and given ample opportunity for collaboration with institutes across the EU, as well as teaching and technological training. The researcher will bring to the project his expertise in studying disk galaxy processes as well as current strong collaborative ties with U.S. institutions, thereby further solidifying the international cooperation between the U.S. and the EU in astrophysics research.
Fields of science
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