Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences Colloquium

Monday, February 27, 2023 at 12:15-1:15PM

JILA Auditorium

Wren Suess,

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

A Pretty Image from the Talk


Galaxies are one of the fundamental building blocks of our universe, yet despite a century of study we still don’t understand how these vast cosmic ecosystems formed. The key challenge is that we want to measure physical properties like stellar mass, but all we observe is light. Making the translation from light to physical properties requires pairing complex stellar population models with rich multi- wavelength datasets. In this talk, I’ll tell three stories of revolutionary observations that have forced us to rewrite our models and rethink our theories of galaxy formation. (1) We used some of the first public JWST images to discover massive galaxies so early in the universe that they may shake the foundations of modern cosmology. (2) We used ALMA to reveal huge reservoirs of cold gas in galaxies that aren’t forming new stars, implying that qualitatively new mechanisms are needed to explain why massive galaxies shut down their star formation. (3) Our first spatially-resolved infrared look at distant galaxies suggests that our previous understanding of galaxy assembly was biased and inaccurate. Interpreting these observations requires a radical re-envisioning of our most basic measurement techniques. I’ll discuss my ongoing work to develop a multi-wavelength, spatially- resolved understanding of distant galaxies by combining these cutting- edge observations with Bayesian analysis and modern machine learning techniques. I’ll conclude with a forward look at how leveraging the joint power of JWST, ALMA, and upcoming observatories like Roman will answer our biggest outstanding questions about galaxy formation and usher in a new era of discoveries.


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