The Universe of Galaxies

Galaxies are in one sense the visible atoms of the cosmic fabric, tracing huge structures both in time and space. They have dynamic internal histories as well, with very different formation and evolution schemes under discussion and test. Galaxies and activity at their nuclei are now appearing to be inextricably linked. We will explore here many facets of galaxies, with the aim of getting to the point where you can intelligently jump into the research literature and launch research projects.

In this course, we will deal with:

  • Galaxies - their integrated properties, classification, stellar and gaseous content
  • Clusters of galaxies - galaxy and gasesous content, evolution
  • Active nuclei - QSOs, Seyfert nuclei, radio galaxies, the central engine
  • Intergalactic medium - Gunn-Peterson effect, QSO absorption systems
  • Galaxy formation and evolution - observations and some theory
  • Cosmology - world models, dark matter, and gravitational lensing

    Some generally useful overall book references on these subjects are listed below. WWW resources are generally less complete, with the notable exception of Ned Wright's cosmology tutorial at UCLA.

  • Galactic Astronomy: Structure and Kinematics, D. Mihalas and J. Binney, Freeman 1981. This includes a nice overview of galaxy properties and systematics.
  • Galactic Dynamics, J. Binney and S. Tremaine, Princeton 1987. This is the standard reference on galaxy dynamics. I'm in awe of these characters and the fabulous level of their discussion. Oddly enough, though, because of our course layout at UA, we'll use only some small snippets of their material.
  • Galaxies and the Universe, vol. 9 of Stars and Stellar Systems, ed. A. Sandage, M. Sandage, and J. Kristian, U. Chicago 1977. A classic, with solid reviews on galaxy classification and properties. While they are pretty old by current standards, some of the material is still well worth reading. A modern counterpart is being issued this year, Planets, Stars, and Stellar Systems: vol. 6, Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology from Springer.
  • Evolution of Galaxies and Stellar Populations, ed. B.M. Tinsley and R.B. Larson, Yale Obs. 1977. This volume is the proceedings of the "Yale Conference", notable for the dawning realization that galaxies evolve both passively and actively. Toomre's paper on mergers and de Vaucouleurs' review of quantitative classification, in particular, are still cited frequently.
  • Quasar Astronomy, D.W. Weedman, Cambridge 1987. A good phenomonological review, including observational cosmology.
  • Astrophysics of Gaseous Nebulae and Active Galactic Nuclei, D.E. Osterbrock and G.J. Ferland, University Science Books (2nd edition, 2006). Detailed treatment of emission-line astrophysics; the new edition included extensive application to the context of QSO and AGN spectra.
  • Introduction to Active Galactic Nuclei, B.M. Peterson (Cambridge, 1997). The full text has been made available online, courtesy of the Cambridge University Press and NED.
  • The Road to Galaxy Formation, Keel (2nd edition, Springer-Praxis 2008).

    Of historical interest are

  • Realm of the Nebulae, E.P. Hubble (1936, recently reprinted by Dover). It is still impressive to see how much of current extragalactic research was foreshadowed within a few years of the confirmation that external galaxies actually exist.
  • Evolution of Stars and Galaxies, W. Baade (Harvard, 1963). This posthumous collection of lectures includes much of Baade's thought on stellar populations.

    We conclude this introduction by considering a basic question - just what is a galaxy? Different contexts faor different properties. Need it have stars, if in the early Universe? Does it have to be gravitationally isolated even if it's been forming stars? How can we distnguish a dwarf galaxy from a large star cluster that escaped its home galaxy?

    Discovery of galaxies »

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