To The Ends of Galaxies: How Do The Smallest Galaxies Form?
While the grand design spiral galaxies may be among the most impressive sights
in the cosmos, there is much to learn from the tiniest galaxies, some of which
contain only a few hundred stars. These galaxies formed long ago, and so carry
a record of what conditions were like early in our Universe, such as how and
when the Universe was heated by galaxies and quasars, and the properties of
dark matter. I will describe some of the recent research aimed at
understanding how these smallest galaxies formed, and highlight some of the
remaining mysteries about them that astrophysicists are attempting to solve.
Dr. Andrew Benson is a staff astronomer at the Carnegie Observatories in
Pasadena, CA. His PhD thesis, complete at Durham University, England in 2000,
explored how galaxies cluster in cold dark matter universes and was partly
responsible for developing the framework of our modern understanding of galaxy
clustering. Since then, Dr. Benson has spent time at the University of Oxford
as a Royal Society Research Fellow, at Caltech as research faculty, and most
recently moved to the Carnegie Observatories in 2012. Dr. Benson has continued
to pursue research into how galaxies form, exploring everything from the
diffuse intergalactic gas that fills our Universe, to supermassive black holes
lurking in the centers of galaxies. This research has been assembled into the
"Galacticus" galaxy formation model which Dr. Benson authored and which is
widely used in astrophysics research.
"What's Up?" in this month will be presented by John Garrett