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Theses Doctoral

Comparing Simulations and Observations of Galaxy Evolution: Methods for Constraining the Nature of Stellar Feedback

Hummels, Cameron Bryce

Computational hydrodynamical simulations are a very useful tool for understanding how galaxies form and evolve over cosmological timescales not easily revealed through observations. However, they are only useful if they reproduce the sorts of galaxies that we see in the real universe. One of the ways in which simulations of this sort tend to fail is in the prescription of stellar feedback, the process by which nascent stars return material and energy to their immediate environments. Careful treatment of this interaction in subgrid models, so-called because they operate on scales below the resolution of the simulation, is crucial for the development of realistic galaxy models. Equally important is developing effective methods for comparing simulation data against observations to ensure galaxy models which mimic reality and inform us about natural phenomena. This thesis examines the formation and evolution of galaxies and the observable characteristics of the resulting systems. We employ extensive use of cosmological hydrodynamical simulations in order to simulate and interpret the evolution of massive spiral galaxies like our own Milky Way. First, we create a method for producing synthetic photometric images of grid-based hydrodynamical models for use in a direct comparison against observations in a variety of filter bands. We apply this method to a simulation of a cluster of galaxies to investigate the nature of the red-sequence/blue-cloud dichotomy in the galaxy color-magnitude diagram. Second, we implement several subgrid models governing the complex behavior of gas and stars on small scales in our galaxy models. Several numerical simulations are conducted with similar initial conditions, where we systematically vary the subgrid models, afterward assessing their efficacy through comparisons of their internal kinematics with observed systems. Third, we generate an additional method to compare observations with simulations, focusing on the tenuous circumgalactic medium. Informed by our previous studies, we investigate the sensitivity of this new mode of comparison to hydrodynamical subgrid prescription. Finally, we synthesize the results of these studies and identify future avenues of research.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Bryan, Greg L.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 24, 2012