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COEVOLUTION Report Summary

Project ID: 638707
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - COEVOLUTION (Black holes and their host galaxies: coevolution across cosmic time)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-02-28

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Galaxy formation is one of the most fascinating yet challenging fields of astrophysics. The desire to understand galaxy formation has led to the design of ever more sophisticated telescopes which show a bewildering variety of galaxies in the Universe. However, the degree to which an interpretation of this wealth of data can succeed depends critically on having accurate and realistic theoretical models of galaxy formation. While cosmological simulations of galaxy formation provide the most powerful technique for calculating the non-linear evolution of cosmic structures, the enormous dynamic range and poorly understood baryonic physics are main uncertainties of present simulations. This impacts on their predictive power and is the major obstacle to our understanding of observational data. The objective of this proposal is to drastically improve upon the current state-of-the-art by i) including more realistic physical processes, such as those occurring at the sphere of influence of a galaxy’s central black hole and ii) greatly extending spatial dynamical range with the aid of a novel technique I have developed. With this technique I want to address one of the major unsolved issues of galaxy formation: “How do galaxies and their central black holes coevolve?” Specifically, I want to focus on three crucial areas of galaxy formation: a) How and where the very first black holes form, what are their observational signatures, and when is the coevolution with host galaxies established? b) Is black hole heating solely responsible for the morphological transformation and quenching of massive galaxies, or are other processes important as well? c) What is the impact of supermassive black holes on galaxy clusters and can we calibrate baryonic physics in clusters to use them as high precision cosmological probes?

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Overall the progress of the ERC project has been excellent. Two postdocs have been hired promptly at the start of the grant and a third one has been hired a year later. The COEVOLUTION team is well balanced and has the necessary expertise in all areas of the ERC grant. Postdocs are leading different research areas of the grant, but also closely collaborating as anticipated. The team also collaborates with a number of PhD students (6 so far) and external collaborators (both supported by other sources). The team produced 16 publications so far in high impact journals and was very active in disseminating scientific results, attending 11 international conferences supported by the ERC grant (plus others) to present the results. The team was also heavily involved in organizing a local workshop (funding provided by other sources) which brought international experts to the team's host institution. Also the team has been very successful in winning high performance computing grants on UK national facilities.

The scientific progress has been very good and as anticipated. Specifically, Colin DeGraf has mainly worked on Area A of the ERC grant. He has developed novel black hole seed models and is currently exploring their impact in state-of-the-art simulations. This work will result in publication expected during 2017. Colin DeGraf has also worked on Area B of the ERC grant, exploring the co-evolution of black holes and galaxies. This resulted in two published papers.
Martin Bourne has mainly worked on Area C of the ERC grant. He has developed an entirely novel method of black hole heating via jets based on the work by Curtis & Sijacki. Given the timeliness he has applied this method to compare against the Hitomi (former Astro-H) mission and to constrain the properties of galaxy clusters, heating and turbulence. This work is already in finishing stages and we expect a paper to be submitted in 1-2 months. Martin Bourne has done further work related to Area B of the ERC grant exploring the interplay between star formation in galaxies and AGN feedback. This resulted in 3 published papers.
Davide Fiacconi has developed a novel method to incorporate the effect of black hole spin and its imprint on black hole accretion and feedback. This model is needed for diverse parts of Area A, B and C. The model is fully functional now and Davide is writing a methods paper that will describe it, which is expected to be ready in 2017. Note that this model is especially timely given the recent detection of gravitational waves, as it will also permit to simulate merging black holes with a spin. Davide also worked on the evolution of galaxies in the early Universe pertinent to Area B of the ERC grant which resulted in 1 published paper.

As anticipated in the grant, a number of PhD students were involved in the project as well (supported by other sources of funding) who are working on Areas A, B and C of the ERC grant and whose work resulted in 8 published papers so far. The PI also worked with external collaborators on projects related to Area B which produced an additional 2 papers.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The COEVOLUTION team has developed completely new numerical techniques to study the evolution of galaxies and their central black holes which are at the forefront of the field. The team has already proven in a number of publications that these techniques are not only innovative and more accurate than previous methods, but that they change the physical understanding of galaxy formation in several important ways. The team is currently applying these techniques on a broad range of topics, which will permit to shed new light on the formation of the very first galaxies and black holes, on their successive evolution through the majority of their lifetime and on the on their ultimate faith in the largest virialized objects, galaxy clusters. This has already produced a significant impact in the scientific community mirrored in a large number of conference talks that our team members have given. The team has additionally produced a more broader socio-economic impact by actively participating in the University of Cambridge Science Festival for the past 2 consecutive years. More than 1200 visitors (each year) came to our institute where the team members have engaged with the public (including many children) explaining in layman terms the science supported by this ERC grant. This has been accomplished through posters, video displays, interactive computer simulations as well as hands on experiments for all ages.

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