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The large-scale environments of radio-loud active galactic nuclei and their evolution across cosmic time
The large-scale environments of radio-loud active galactic nuclei and their evolution across cosmic time
Emerging from the cosmic web, galaxy clusters are the most massive gravitationally bound structures in the universe. Thought to have begun their assembly at 2 < z < 3, i.e. 10 to 11 billion years ago, clusters provide insights into the growth of large-scale structure as well as the physics that drives galaxy evolution. The redshift range 1 < z < 3 is a key epoch in their evolution. At z ∼ 1.5, elliptical galaxies start to become the dominant population in cluster cores, and star formation in spiral galaxies is being quenched. But there is also evidence for a progressive increase in the amount of star formation that occurs in galaxy cluster cores at z ≳ 1.5. To understand the dependence of the formation mechanisms of massive galaxies with environment, we must focus on clusters at relatively unexplored redshifts z > 1.5 where major assembly is in progress. The search for galaxy clusters at high redshift, so far, has been mildly successful and only a handful of clusters at z > 1.5 have been confirmed. Because this redshift range was essentially unreachable with previous instrumentation, it was dubbed a ‘redshift desert’. The work presented in this thesis has made a major contribution to this field. The Clusters Around Radio- Loud AGN (CARLA) survey, a 400 hr targeted Warm Spitzer program, observed 420 radio-loud AGN (active galactic nuclei) at 1.3 < z < 3.2 across the full sky. Extensive literature over several decades shows that powerful radio-loud AGN preferentially reside in overdense environments. From this survey, we have identified a sample of ∼ 200 galaxy cluster candidates by selecting strong overdensities of color-selected sources. By studying the luminosity function of the CARLA cluster candidates, we showed that quenching is happening much earlier in clusters around radio-loud AGN than in field galaxy samples. This suggests that our targets may well be the most massive and evolved structures known to date at z > 1.5. We also showed that radio-loud AGN reside in denser environments than similarly massive galaxies. This makes high-redshift clusters around radio-loud AGN particularly interesting as they can reveal how galaxies in the most massive dark matter halos assembled. A complementary project, HERGE (Herschel Radio Galaxy Evolution Project) observed a sample of 71 radio galaxies at 1 < z < 5 at far-IR wavelengths with the Herschel Space Observatory. Supporting data in the mid-IR, partially in the near-IR and at sub-mm wave- lengths allow to study cluster fields in more detail. A pilot project on a single field showed that we can identify cluster members and constrain their star-formation properties. These projects laid the foundation for future work, which will make a significant impact on understanding the formation of the most massive structures over several billion years.
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Wylezalek, Dominika
2014
Englisch
Universitätsbibliothek der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Wylezalek, Dominika (2014): The large-scale environments of radio-loud active galactic nuclei and their evolution across cosmic time. Dissertation, LMU München: Fakultät für Physik
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Abstract

Emerging from the cosmic web, galaxy clusters are the most massive gravitationally bound structures in the universe. Thought to have begun their assembly at 2 < z < 3, i.e. 10 to 11 billion years ago, clusters provide insights into the growth of large-scale structure as well as the physics that drives galaxy evolution. The redshift range 1 < z < 3 is a key epoch in their evolution. At z ∼ 1.5, elliptical galaxies start to become the dominant population in cluster cores, and star formation in spiral galaxies is being quenched. But there is also evidence for a progressive increase in the amount of star formation that occurs in galaxy cluster cores at z ≳ 1.5. To understand the dependence of the formation mechanisms of massive galaxies with environment, we must focus on clusters at relatively unexplored redshifts z > 1.5 where major assembly is in progress. The search for galaxy clusters at high redshift, so far, has been mildly successful and only a handful of clusters at z > 1.5 have been confirmed. Because this redshift range was essentially unreachable with previous instrumentation, it was dubbed a ‘redshift desert’. The work presented in this thesis has made a major contribution to this field. The Clusters Around Radio- Loud AGN (CARLA) survey, a 400 hr targeted Warm Spitzer program, observed 420 radio-loud AGN (active galactic nuclei) at 1.3 < z < 3.2 across the full sky. Extensive literature over several decades shows that powerful radio-loud AGN preferentially reside in overdense environments. From this survey, we have identified a sample of ∼ 200 galaxy cluster candidates by selecting strong overdensities of color-selected sources. By studying the luminosity function of the CARLA cluster candidates, we showed that quenching is happening much earlier in clusters around radio-loud AGN than in field galaxy samples. This suggests that our targets may well be the most massive and evolved structures known to date at z > 1.5. We also showed that radio-loud AGN reside in denser environments than similarly massive galaxies. This makes high-redshift clusters around radio-loud AGN particularly interesting as they can reveal how galaxies in the most massive dark matter halos assembled. A complementary project, HERGE (Herschel Radio Galaxy Evolution Project) observed a sample of 71 radio galaxies at 1 < z < 5 at far-IR wavelengths with the Herschel Space Observatory. Supporting data in the mid-IR, partially in the near-IR and at sub-mm wave- lengths allow to study cluster fields in more detail. A pilot project on a single field showed that we can identify cluster members and constrain their star-formation properties. These projects laid the foundation for future work, which will make a significant impact on understanding the formation of the most massive structures over several billion years.