The group investigates galaxy evolution along cosmic history. In particular, discovering how and when stars formed in galaxies, how and when supermassive black holes in their centers grow and what is the relation between both processes, known as feedback. These studies span from the local Universe to the first and more distant galaxies formed, but with special emphasis in the epoch of major activity, both regarding star formation and supermassive black hole growth, that is when the Universe was at 20%-50% of its current age (z~1-3).
For this purpose, our group carries out astronomical observations across the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio, infrared or optical to the X-rays, both for particular sources and as part of multi-wavelength surveys (leading some of them, such as the Bright Ultra-hard XMM-Newton Survey -BUXS-). Competitive access to the most relevant astronomical ground (VLT and ALMA in ESO, IRAM, VLA/Jansky, Effelsberg, EVN, GTC, ORM, CAHA, etc.) and space (XMM-Newton, Spitzer, Herschel) observatories, is an essential asset in our group, since scientific achievements are often driven by such observations.
Regarding the large astronomical infrastructures and their related advanced instrumentation, the group participates in leading positions in the most competitive projects at Spanish, European and world-wide level. These activities are considered by the group as an strategic target. Some members of the group have relevant roles in future space missions such as
Athena (ESA), and in ground observatories like GTC, OAJ and ESO.
The group participates assiduously in the outreach tasks of both IFCA and ACO (Science Week, Open Doors, Expanding Science - even more, February 11th, Researchers' Night ...), organising some of them. In this regard, it is worth mentioning the management of the Astronomical Observatory of Cantabria by members of the group.
The main research projects of the group can be summarised as:
The study of several topics related to the evolution of galaxies in the Universe. We carry out multiwavelength wide-area surveys to obtain information about large samples of galaxies. The group is involved in the definition of particular surveys as well as in the exploitation of existent public surveys; we also develop tools to select targets and to analyze data.
Our scientific interests include: the study of the star-formation history of the Universe; determination of the density of galaxy populations such as starbursts, dwarf galaxies, AGNs, quasars, etc.; identification of high-redshift galaxies and quasars; metallicity evolution; physics of broad absorption line (BAL) quasars.
The group is currently involved in the following surveys:
- OTELO: is one of the deepest emission lines surveys to date, carried out with the GTC in the Canary Islands. It has just been completed and it will release the catalogue soon. Ignacio González Serrano is a member of the Core team.
- ALHAMBRA: The Advanced Large, Homogeneous Area Medium Band Redshift Astronomical Survey was a photometric survey in 20 contiguous bands, finished in 2014, in which Alberto Fernández Soto participated.
- J-PAS (Javalambre Physics of the Accelerated Universe Astrophysical Survey): Two members of the team (Ignacio González and Alberto Fernández) also participate in J-PAS being observed at the Javalambre observatory in Teruel (Spain).
Intrumentation for Large Telescopes
- OSIRIS at the GTC
- OPTIMOS/EVE at the EELT: The OPTIMOS/EVE project is multi-object spectrograph for the visible domain which does not require adaptive optics corrections for the ELT. The goals of this instrument are the analysis of stellar populations in external galaxies, the study of the formation and evolution of the halos of galaxies as well as of the first sources of light in the Universe.
Athena: A mission to understand the hot and energetic Universe
Almost half of the baryons (ordinary matter) in the Universe have a temperature in excess of a million degrees, forming large-scale cosmic structures. There is an intimate relation between this component and the energy deposited on large scales by giant black holes during their growth phases.
The Hot and Energetic Universe is the theme selected by ESA for the upcoming Large mission (L2) opportunity due for launch in early 2030, within the framework of the Cosmic Vision (2015-2035) programme. This mission which will implement it is called
Athena. The group participates in the scientific definition of the mission, with membership in several
Athena Working Groups and also chairing one of their
At the mission level, the group’s main responsibility is hosting and heading (Francisco J. Carrera) the Athena Community Office (ACO). The Athena Science Study Team (ASST) has established the Athena Community Office (ACO) in order to support its role as “focal point for the interests of the broad scientific community”. Among other tasks, the ACO will assist the ASST in organising and collecting support from the Working Groups and Topical Panels, support the production of Athena Synergy White Papers and Athena Study Reports, produce an "Athena Newsletter", host and maintain an Athena community web portal, master communication activities for the community supporting Athena and promote and organise
outreach activities related to Athena science.
The group also has as significant participation in the Consortium of the X-IFU instrumen, a cryogenic X-ray micro calorimeter (X-IFU) based on TES (Transition Edge Sensor) technology for X-ray detection, in charge of providing a groundbreaking cryogenic spatially resolved high resolution spectrograph for Athena. As part of the collaboration for the development of this instrument our group is working on the design of the
software to detect and reconstruct the events (pulses generated by the X-ray photons in the detector). M.Teresa Ceballos is X-IFU Instrument co-Investigator, manager of the Event processor algorithm Subystem, member of the end-to-end simulation team and the X-IFU Instrument Consortium Center and Consortium Member (in these last three categories along with Beatriz Cobo). Xavier Barcons is also Science Co-investigator and Consortium member.
Quasars with star formation
Among our activities to understand better the interaction between the growth of supermassive black holes and the growth of their host galaxies, we are carrying out a study of a sample of X-ray luminous broad-line quasars (hence still feeding their central supermassive black hole copiously) and also luminous in the far infrared (indicative of active star formation and a growing host galaxy). In addition, these objects also show hints of over-densities of sub-millimetre galaxies (also forming stars massively) in their environments, which would place these quasars in the centers of growing structures in the primitive Universe. In collaboration with colleagues at MSSL (University College London, UK) and at the Centre for Astrophysics Research (University of Hertfordshire, UK) we are observing and analyzing these objects across the wide electromagnetic spectrum (from X-rays to radio) to understand their nature and place them in the fiercely-debated landscape of co-evolution of galaxies and their active nuclei.
The Bright Ultra-hard XMM-Newton Survey (BUXS): Obscured black hole growth in the z<1 Universe
BUXS is a large scale AGN survey project in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Leicester (UK) and the Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera (Italy) that will determine the X-ray luminosity function of luminous type 1 and type 2 AGN and its cosmological evolution in the z<1 Universe. BUXS is one of the largest, among the existing XMM-Newton and Chandra surveys, flux-limited sample of X-ray bright sources selected at ’ultra-hard’ X-ray energies (4.5-10 keV). The survey consists of 258 AGN detected over a total sky area of more than ~44 deg2 of which 98% are currently identified through an extensive program of optical spectroscopic follow-up. So far BUXS has been used to define a highly reliable and efficient infrared selection technique of AGN based on data from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer and it is currently been used to determine the emission properties of the circumnuclear dust in luminous AGN.
Annual Report (2018)
During 2018, important advances have been made in several projects in which the group of Galaxies and AGN of the IFCA participates:
- The analysis of the
ALHAMBRA Survey data is ongoing. The data are being used by the team to measure many different aspects of galaxy formation and evolution
- - The first square degree of the intermediate band wide area survey J-PAS has been concluded and catalogues have been produced
OTELO (the census of galaxies with the deepest emission lines to date) has been completed and the data will be published soon
- Within the Athena project, the phase A1 has been completed with Status Review 1 in October 2018, the Instrument Preliminary Review (IPRR) of the WFI instrument has been passed in October 2018 and an onboard processing baseline has been established for the IPRR of the X -IFU (expected for February 2019) and the instruments consortia have been officially accepted by ESA in December 2018
- The Athena Community Office (ACO), led by IFCA, supports the Athena Science Study Team in managing the 800-strong Athena Community and has participated in the Athena-SKA (finished) and multi-messenger (started) synergy exercises and it manages the Athena Mock Observation Plan.
In addition, the group is increasingly involved in applying Machine Learning techniques to Astronomy, with a new postdoc (expert in classification algorithms) hired and collaborations started with with the Instituto de Inteligencia Artificial de Barcelona (Spain, to apply machine learning techniques to the detection and characterization of X-ray pulses in X-IFU detector on board Athena) and with MPE (Germany, to select and characterise multiwavelength counterparts to X-ray sources). As part of these efforts the group has encouraged and led setting an IFCA-wide working group on Machine Learning techniques.
The group persistently participates in all the outreach activities of IFCA, even leading some of them, such as two astronomical observations performed from the IFCA premises and those organised by the ACO. Furthermore, the directorship of Astronomical Observatory of Cantabria is being held by a member of the group.
Key figures 2018: 6 senior researchers, 5 hired postdocs and 1 part-time contractor. 5 active projects. 10 papers in top JCR journals. Active participation in the UIMP-UC Particle Physics and Cosmos Master.
Selected Papers 2018:
KIC 8462852: Will the Trojans return in 2021?
- Ballesteros, F.J.; Arnalte-Mur, P.; Fernandez-Soto, A.; Martínez, V.J. 2018, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 473, L21-L25
Deep learning for galaxy surface brightness profile fitting
- Tuccillo, D., M. Huertas-Company, E. Decencière, S. Velasco-Forero, H. Domínguez Sánchez, & P. Dimauro, 2018, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 475, 894-909
The ATHENA X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU)
- Barret, D., T. Lam Trong, J.-W. den Herder, L. Piro, et al., 2018, Proceedings Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2018: Ultraviolet to Gamma Ray, 10699, 106991G
catalogue of photometric redshifts for X-ray sources
- Ruiz, A., A. Corral, G. Mountrichas, & I. Georgantopoulos, 2018, Astronomy and Astrophysics, 618, A52
Phase A1 of the Athena project was completed in October 2018, the two instrument consortia were officially accepted by ESA in December 2018 and the IPRR of one of them (WFI) was successfully passed in October 2018. Athena is on track for its Mission Formulation Review in the third quarter of 2019, adoption in 2021 and launch in the early 2030s
KIC 8462852, also known as "Tabby´s Star" is probably the most strange star ever observed. During the years that the Kepler satellite observed it there was a major dimming (similar to what a crossing planet would have caused, but much larger than any previously observed), and there were two different periods of strong, highly irregular variability. In this paper our group suggests that the major dimming could have been caused by a very large, ringed planet, whereas the irregular periods could be produced by Trojan asteroids associated to its orbit. We predict the onset of a new phase of irregular variability in 2021, and the next passage of the large planet in 2023. This paper attracted a lot of media attention, thus being classified at the top of the "AltMetric" rating for several weeks after its publication, and it remains within the top 5% articles in its scale.
Group Project Grants
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Group publications (all) in the Astrophysical Data System (ADS)
Group publications (year 2019) in the Astrophysical Data System (ADS)