Feeding the Beasts: Investigating the Merger-Induced Growth of Star-Forming BCGs at High-Redshift

Project: Research project

Project Details


We have discovered a new, and unexpected, formation mechanism for the most massive galaxies in the universe: Brightest Cluster Galaxies or BCGs. Although the standard theory indicates that BCGs assemble the bulk of their stellar mass through the accretion of gas-poor systems, our recent study has shown that substantial in-situ star formation is occurring at high redshift. What remains to be determined is the primary mechanism that is fueling this star formation in the centers of these giant dark matter halos, specifically filamentary cooling flows or clumpy gas-rich mergers. Spatially-resolved imaging, particularly at infrared and submillimeter wavelengths, is crucial to differentiate between these various modes of star formation.

We have thus embarked on a comprehensive ALMA study of BCGs, with the primary goal of assembling a multi-wavelength data set over a statistically significant sample at high redshifts. We began the first component of this mission in Cycle 6 (PI Noble, 2018.1.00828.S) imaging the dust continuum (230 GHz) of 13 extreme, star-bursting BCGs at 0.4 arcsec resolution. The ALMA Cycle 7 program (PI Noble, 2019.1.01027.S) is the next phase of a comparative study, extending to 13 additional BCGs with lower levels of star formation on the main sequence. These data constitute the largest study of high-z BCGs, and will allow us, for the first time, to examine how star formation is driven in dense environments during a pivotal epoch of massive galaxy formation.
Effective start/end date5/1/214/30/23


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $34,376.00


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