05. November 2012.
(Deadline for applications: 01. December 2012)
This project and connected position is on the question whether galaxy mergers are fuelling AGN at the highest masses. I have available a set of ~20 massive QSOs (logMBH~9.5) at redshift z=2 for which HST WFC3 NIR images were taken in the past cycle. Goal is to compare their morphologies to those of inactive galaxies at the same stellar mass and redshift and to assess whether there is a higher and possibly dominating rate of fresh major merger signatures present for the QSO hosts compared to inactive galaxies.
Technically this involves a careful HST data reduction and as-good-as-possible modelling of the QSOs and the image point spread function, because they have a very bright nucleus strongly outshining the surrounding host galaxy. At first glance, and hopefully not at second, they appear as nearly pure point sources in the WFC3 images. Then a comparison sample from publicly available surveys (e.g. CANDELS) will have to be compiled and a morphological analysis to be carried out.
Actually this project has already started a few weeks back with a graduate student starting with data reduction but no results so far. MPIA is a very stimulating research environment with flat hierarchies and quite some AGN activities, from hi-z to jets, to QSO absorption line studies. And of course my group which is focussing on the interdependence of AGN and galaxy evolution.
I hope this gives a first impression on the goal and scope of the project. There is surely time associated with this position to pursue own research ideas and I would encourage either follow-ups or further exploration or amendment of the HST data with HST or e.g. ESO data, which we have good access to.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have question.