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Kitzbichler, Manfred G. (2008): Galaxy formation and evolution in the Millennium Simulation. Dissertation, LMU München: Fakultät für Physik



This Thesis addresses the topic of galaxy formation and evolution in the universe. In collaboration with D. Croton, G. de Lucia, V. Springel, and S.D.M. White, I made use of the Millennium simulation, a very large N-body simulation of dark-matter evolution in a cosmological volume carried out at the MPA in 2005 by Springel 2005, to explore the predictions made by the most recent generation of semi-analytic models for galaxy formation. These models are incorporating a new mode of feedback from active galactic nuclei (AGN), which have their origins in super-massive black holes accreting mass and turning it into energy. Because of its observational signature in the radio regime this feedback is called "radio mode" and it counteracts the cooling flows of cold gas in undisturbed dark-matter haloes hosting galaxy clusters, which would otherwise show much higher star-formation of their central object than is observed. Previous work by Croton 2006 and De Lucia 2006 has shown that with the new semi-analytic model the population of local galaxies can be reproduced quite accurately. In order to study the evolution of the population out to higher redshifts, the semi-analytic predictions have been compared to a number of observations in various filter bands, in particular to two recent efforts to get a comprehensive multi-wavelength dataset of high redshift galaxies carried out by the DEEP2 (Davis 2001) and COSMOS (Scoville 2006) collaborations. The approach taken was to perform as broad a comparison as possible to gain firm constraints on the assumed physics in our model. Therefore a multitude of observational properties was contrasted with the model predictions such as clustering, luminosity functions, stellar mass functions, number counts per area and redshift to a certain magnitude limit. In order to facilitate the comparison between simulations and recent intermediate and high-redshift surveys, it is very useful to have a number of independent mock observations of the simulated galaxies, which provide good enough statistics to get a handle on cosmic variance. To this end I have devised a computer program that calculates the simulated galaxies lying on the backward light cone of a hypothetical observer out to arbitrarily high redshifts, taking advantage of the periodicity of the simulation box but avoiding replications. The output provides accurately interpolated redshifts, positions, observer frame and rest-frame magnitudes, dust extinction, as well as all the intrinsic galaxy properties like stellar mass and star formation rate. Utilising this tool it is also possible to make predictions for future galaxy surveys, deeper in magnitude and redshift than current ones. Presently the mock catalogues are used by the DEEP2 and COSMOS teams as a comparison sample in general and as a means to assess their selection effects and improve their data reduction in particular. First comparisons of counts in apparent magnitude and redshift gave promising results, showing good agreement in the low and intermediate range. The same holds for the angular clustering analysis except for the faintest magnitudes. Thus we conclude that our current understanding of the processes governing galaxy formation and evolution from the very first objects to the present day population is realistic but still incomplete. In particular the treatment of the interplay between star formation and negative feedback and the various processes influencing satellite galaxies in big galaxy clusters have potential for improvement. In the following I will give a brief outline of the thesis. After setting the stage for any kind of model in Chapter 1 by defining the geometry of the universe and the cosmological parameters that determine it, I will describe our semi-analytical model of galaxy formation in Chapter 2, where it will be also explained how to construct realistic mock observations of the simulated galaxies. First in Chapter 3 it will be verified that a simple model which assumes that galaxies are conserved but evolve in luminosity due to their star formation histories cannot account for the observed evolution of the galaxy population in the universe. This fact can be understood in the context of hierarchical models where massive and luminous galaxies assembled from smaller objects. Chapter 4 proceeds with exploring the predictions from the considerably more sophisticated semi-analytic model based on an N-body simulation of the hierarchical growth of dark matter structures. For this analysis a set of mock light-cones was constructed for direct comparison with the data which shows reasonably good agreement between model and observations at low redshift and for bright apparent magnitudes. These light-cones represent one of the largest samples of realistic mock observations currently available. They can be used for testing data analysis techniques usually applied to real observations on a well defined sample of artificial galaxies to verify how well the derivation of galaxy properties from the data works. In Chapter 5 we will demonstrate how one can measure the evolution of the galaxy merger rate from observing close projected galaxy pairs. Interestingly we find that the calibration needed for the conversion is significantly different from what has typically been assumed in previous studies. Additionally we will demonstrate that galaxy merger rates and dark-matter merger rates show considerably different evolution with redshift. Consequently we conclude that merger rate studies are less suitable as a probe of cosmic structure formation than initially assumed, but nonetheless they can be of great help to understand the formation and evolution of galaxies in a hierarchical universe. Finally these results will be summarised and discussed in Chapter 6 where I will also give a brief outlook on the future of this work, a short glimpse of which is already presented in the Appendix.