Astrophysics Group

Cavendish Laboratory

Galaxy Formation and Evolution

Hubble Space Telescope image of the GOODS-S field


Primordial Galaxies

Understanding the nature and the formation mechanism of the first galaxies in the early Universe is one of the main goals of modern Astrophysics. We are using deep observations at radio, millimeter and infrared wavelengths to understand the nature of distant galaxies and, in particular, their gas content, the properties of their stellar population and their dynamics, in these early stages of formation.









Artist’s rendering of an accreting black hole


Galaxy – Black Hole Coevolution

Galaxies and their central black holes evolve together in a fundamentally connected way, as evidenced by the well known relation between black hole mass and bulge stellar mass.

Gas heating and outflows driven by accreting supermassive black holes (quasar phase) may affect the evolution of star formation in their host galaxy. These phenomena are investigated by tracing the gas dynamics through infrared and millimeter observations.



Large-scale structure unveiled by large galaxy surveys and stat-of-the-art simulations


Nature or Nurture?

In addition to internal processes, it has long been established that galactic environment plays an critical role in determining the properties of galaxies, including their star formation rates, morphologies, gas contents and metallicity.

By studying the relationship between galaxies and their environments (both locally and in the distant Universe), we are shedding light on many of the external physical processes driving galaxy evolution.









The starburst galaxy M82, which expels dust and metal enriched gas out of its disk


The Life Cycle of the ISM

The interstellar medium (ISM) plays a central role in galaxy evolution, providing the fuel for star formation and also hosting the “fossil record” of the galaxy formation history.

A range of modern facilities are used to investigate the evolution of the ISM; atomic gas with the JVLA (and, in the future, the SKA), molecular gas with ALMA and IRAM, and cool dust with Herschel.

The ISM also carries an imprint of past star formation activity, in the form of its metal enrichment. By measuring chemical abundances, both locally and in the distant Universe, we can investigate the galaxy formation mechanisms throughout the cosmic epoch.