Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences Colloquium

Monday, November 07, 2022 at 12:15-1:15PM

JILA Auditorium

Wren Suess, Kavli Institute

"Transforming our understanding of galaxy formation with the power of JWST and ALMA"

A Pretty Image from the Talk


The field of galaxy evolution was reborn with the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the discovery that early galaxies look nothing like their modern descendants. However, even this incredible observatory has a fundamental limit— wavelength coverage. Solving the big open questions in the field requires longer-wavelength data which can find the first galaxies, peer through dust, and measure both stars and the gas they form out of. The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is, like HST, a watershed moment: for the first time, we can directly image the formation of galaxies from shortly after the Big Bang through to the present day. Just a few months after JWST’s first data release, seeing the universe with infrared eyes has already led to paradigm shifts in our understanding of galaxy formation. We’ve learned that galaxies in JWST’s mirror are smaller than they appeared, previously-invisible disks exist even at the intermediate redshifts we thought we understood, and massive galaxies form so early that they may shake the foundations of modern cosmology. ALMA is crucial to complete this new multi-wavelength view of galaxy evolution: it provides a census of optically-dark galaxies and can directly image the gas that feeds star formation. I’ll discuss recent ALMA work that led to the discovery of a qualitatively new mechanism for shutting down star formation. I’ll conclude with a forward look at how leveraging the joint power of JWST and ALMA will answer our biggest outstanding questions about galaxy formation and usher in a new era of discoveries.


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