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Title page for ETD etd-03152012-124603

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Watson, Douglas F.
URN etd-03152012-124603
Title Constraining the physics of galaxy formation and evolution using galaxy clustering
Degree PhD
Department Physics
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Andreas Berlind Committee Chair
  • astrophysics
  • cosmology
Date of Defense 2012-02-27
Availability unrestricted
The last decade has transformed the field of cosmology into a precision science.

We now know to great accuracy that the matter content of the Universe consists of

approximately 85% in the form of the mysterious dark matter and the remaining 15%

in the form of ordinary, baryonic matter. Much of this baryonic matter is locked up

in galaxies, and understanding the spatial distribution, or “clustering”, of galaxies as

they relate to the more ubiquitous dark matter is one of the principal goals of galaxy

formation theory. There is now an established concordance cosmological model known

as ΛCDM. This model has successfully passed a gauntlet of tests on large scales, but

studying the small scales (< 1Mpc) is non-trivial, as the physics is quite complicated.

This thesis is primarily centered on studying the tumultuous lives of satellite

galaxies (galaxies that orbit around a brighter galaxy) by means of the galaxy correlation function, ξ (r), a common statistic that describes the spatial clustering of

galaxies. I focus on three distinct, yet connected, unsolved problems of galaxy formation elucidated by galaxy clustering. First, I confront the long-standing conundrum

of the observed power-law nature of ξ (r) from a theoretical standpoint. I reveal how

a nearly power-law ξ (r) requires a conspiracy between otherwise unrelated physical processes. Second, I discuss a powerful new technique that uses the spatial clustering of satellite galaxies to understand how their stellar mass loss occurs. I find the

interesting result that low-luminosity satellite galaxies experience substantially more

efficient stellar mass loss than luminous satellites. I am also able to successfully predict current intrahalo light (IHL) observations and thus further constrain our stellar

mass loss models. Lastly, by modeling recent measurements of the very small-scale

clustering of a wide range of galaxy classes, I uncover a strong luminosity trend of the

radial density profile of satellite galaxies, wherein bright satellites are poor tracers of

the dominant underlying dark matter. This result could possibly lead to a test of the

ΛCDM model at the extreme small scales.

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