Resolving the extended stellar halos of nearby galaxies: the future of Near-Field Cosmology

Prof. Denija Crnojevic
March 15, 2018 - 4:00pm


I will present results from the wide-field Panoramic Imaging Survey of Centaurus and Sculptor (PISCeS): the resolved stellar halos of two nearby galaxies (the spiral NGC253 and the elliptical Centaurus A, D~3.7 Mpc) are investigated with Magellan/Megacam. The survey pushes the limits of near-field cosmology beyond the Local Group, by characterizing the stellar content (ages, metallicities, gradients) of extended halos and their substructures in two environments substantially different from the Local Group. PISCeS has to date led to the discovery of 11 confirmed satellites as faint as M_V=-8, streams and tidal substructures with surface brigthness limits as low as ~32 mag/arcsec^2, and hundreds of globular cluster/ultra-compact dwarf candidates. The unique strength of PISCeS is the exquisite synergy between the wide-field, ground-based survey and its extensive imaging and spectroscopic follow-up (HST, Keck, VLT, Magellan, AAT), which constitute the first accurate characterization of the past and ongoing accretion processes shaping the halos of these nearby galaxies. Our observational campaign will not only provide crucial constraints to quantitatively inform theoretical models of galaxy formation and evolution, but it also represents a necessary testbed in preparation for the next generation of ground-based (LSST, GMT, TMT) as well as space-borne (JWST, WFIRST) telescopes.