High-redshift star formation under the cosmic microscope

March 8, 2018
Phillips Auditorium
University of Illinois

Recent facilities such as the South Pole Telescope (SPT), the Herschel Space Observatory, and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) have opened a window to the millimeter (mm) sky and revealed a unique and unprecedented view of the dusty Universe. In a 2500 square degree cosmological survey, SPT has systematically identified a large number (>100) of high-redshift strongly gravitationally lensed starburst galaxies. We have completed a unique spectroscopic redshift survey with ALMA, targeting carbon monoxide line emission in these sources. We have obtained spectroscopic redshifts for 82 sources from 1.8 < z < 6.9, with a median of z=3.9. This sample comprises 70% of the total spectroscopically confirmed starburst at z>4 and extends into the epoch of re-ionization. We are undertaking a comprehensive and systematic followup campaign to use these “cosmic magnifying glasses” to study the physical conditions and chemical evolution of the dust-obscured universe in unprecedented detail, using ionized carbon, carbon monoxide, and water. These sources are also part of an Early Release Science Program with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), due to launch in less than a year. Combined, these images taken with ALMA and JWST will be the most detailed study of the redshift 7 Universe, less than 800 million years after the Big Bang.

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