Shocking tales of structure formation: Evolving galaxies and black holes in evolving environments

Clay Fellowship Lecture
Thursday, February 25, 2021 -
4:00pm to 5:00pm
Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian

Understanding the interplay between galaxy evolution, star formation, and black hole activity from the perspective of structure formation remains one of the most fascinating challenges in modern astrophysics. On the largest scales, pairs of galaxy clusters colliding drive the growth of structure. Cluster mergers are the most energetic events since the Big Bang, which release 10^64 ergs over 1-2 billion years and produce dramatic, long-lasting effects. By bringing together panchromatic observations, I will discuss how the merger of galaxy clusters can trigger star formation and black hole activity in cluster galaxies, shape the evolution of cluster galaxies, and reverse typical environmental trends observed in relaxed clusters at low redshift. With approximately half the galaxy clusters in the local Universe undergoing mergers, this recent work has revealed gaps in our understanding of the growth of structure in the Universe and showed the potential for discovery in this understudied field. I will draw parallels between the fundamental drivers of galaxy and black hole evolution in low-redshift clusters and the processes relevant in the context of proto-clusters and high-redshift clusters, where mergers and associated non-thermal phenomena were far more common than in the nearby Universe. A treasure trove of cluster samples at increasingly large redshifts will be delivered by new generation of instruments, including eROSITA, GMT, ELT, ATHENA, Lynx, and SKA. The detail with which we can study clusters in the nearby Universe provides us the calibration for the physics of high redshift events and helps guide discoveries in the field of galaxy and black hole evolution at the epoch when structures first formed.

Event Status: