Unveiling the low-surface-brightness Universe with new deep-wide surveys: the role of mergers in driving galaxy evolution

Lead Research Organisation: University of Hertfordshire
Department Name: School of Physics, Astronomy and Maths


Merging is the principal driver of galaxy evolution, triggering star-formation episodes, building black holes and inducing morphological transformations. Since low-mass galaxies outnumber their massive counterparts, galaxy assembly proceeds primarily via mergers with unequal mass ratios ('minor mergers'). However, while clearly fundamental, minor merging remains virtually unexplored, as the low-surface-brightness tidal features they produce are invisible in today's surveys. A complete understanding of merging (and therefore galaxy evolution) requires exploration of the low-surface-brightness Universe, e.g. using a telescope like LSST.

While LSST and other facilities will usher in a new era of low-surface-brightness astronomy, the algorithms required to detect/characterize low-surface-brightness tidal features need to be developed. The student will use state-of-the-art cosmological simulations (e.g. Horizon-AGN) to create mock galaxy images, build/train algorithms on these images, test them on available precursor datasets and build low-surface-brightness pipelines for facilities like LSST, EUCLID, DES etc. He/she will sit at the centre of a collaborative network that is led by Hertfordshire, with nodes at Princeton, Oxford and the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris. The student will gain expertise in key theoretical and observational techniques and write benchmark papers on low-surface-brightness science and the role of mergers in galaxy evolution.


10 25 50
publication icon
Jackson R (2019) Massive spheroids can form in single minor mergers in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ST/R504786/1 01/10/2017 31/01/2022
1957027 Studentship ST/R504786/1 01/10/2017 28/02/2021 Ryan Jackson
Description LSST:UK Travel funding
Amount £1,694 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2019 
End 08/2019
Description LSST:UK Travel funding
Amount £872 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2020 
End 02/2020
Description RAS Grant
Amount £890 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Astronomical Society 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2018 
End 08/2018
Description Horizon project 
Organisation Paris Institute of Astrophysics
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have written/are in the process of writing research papers using the simulation provided by the collaboration.
Collaborator Contribution They have provided me with 2 state of the art cosmological simulations with which I am conducting research for my award.
Impact All my research to date has involved this collaboration.
Start Year 2017