Theses Doctoral

Observationally Constrained Metal Signatures of Galaxy Evolution in the Stars and Gas of Cosmological Simulations

Corlies, Lauren Nicole

The halos of galaxies - consisting of gas, stars, and satellite galaxies - are formed and shaped by the most fundamental processes: hierarchical merging and the flow of gas into and out of galaxies. While these processes are hard to disentangle, metals are tied to the gas that fuels star formation and entrained in the wind that the deaths of these stars generate. As such, they can act as important indicators of the star formation, the chemical enrichment, and the outflow histories of galaxies. Thus, this thesis aims to take advantage of such metal signatures in the stars and gas to place observational constraints on current theories of galaxy evolution as implemented in cosmological simulations.
The first two chapters consider the metallicities of stars in the stellar halo of the Milky Way and its surviving satellite dwarf galaxies. Chapter 2 pairs an N-body simulation with a semi-analytic model for supernova-driven winds to examine the early environment of a Milky Way-like galaxy. At z=10, progenitors of surviving z=0 satellite galaxies are found to sit preferentially on the outskirts of progenitor halos of the eventual main halo. The consequence of these positions is that main halo progenitors are found to more effectively cross-pollute each other than satellite progenitors. Thus, inhomogeneous cross-pollution as a result of different high-z spatial locations of different progenitors can help to explain observed differences in abundance patterns measured today. Chapter 3 expands this work into the analysis of a cosmological, hydrodynamical simulation of dwarf galaxies in the early universe. We find that simple assumptions for modeling the extent of supernova-driven winds used in Chapter 2 agree well with the simulation whereas the presence of inhomogeneous mixing in the simulation has a large effect on the stellar metallicities. Furthermore, the star-forming halos show both bursty and continuous SFHs, two scenarios proposed by stellar metallicity data. However, the metallicity distribution functions of the simulated halos are both too metal rich and too peaked when compared to the data. This comparison reveals that a complex SFH and a broad metallicity distribution can develop rapidly in the early Universe.
The third chapter moves to the present day with a consideration of the circumgalactic medium (CGM) around nearby Milky Way-like galaxies. We compare a cosmological simulation of a Milky Way-like galaxy to recent absorption line data and find that a reduced extragalactic ultraviolet background brings the column density predictions into better agreement with the data. Similarly, when the observationally derived physical properties of the gas are compared to the simulation, we find that the simulation gas is always at temperatures approximately 0.5 dex higher. Thus, similar column densities can be produced from fundamentally different gas. Metal-line emission is then considered as a complementary approach to studying the CGM. From the simulations, we find that the brightest emission is less sensitive to the extragalactic background and that it closely follows the fundamental filamentary structure of the halo. This becomes increasingly true as the galaxy evolves from z = 1 to z = 0 and the majority of the gas transitions to a hotter, more diffuse phase. Finally, resolution is a limiting factor for the conclusions we can draw from emission observations but with moderate resolution and reasonable detection limits, upcoming instrumentation should place constraints on the physical properties of the CGM.
Future work advancing the techniques in this thesis remain promising for putting new observational constraints on our theories of galaxy evolution.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Schiminovich, David
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 1, 2016