New Emmy Noether Junior Research Group at Centre for Astronomy

Press Release No. 46/2012
15 February 2012
Heidelberg astronomers investigate how galaxies get their stars
Bigiel Frank 160x200
Dr. Frank Bigiel

A newly established Emmy Noether Junior Research Group at the Centre for Astronomy of Heidelberg University (ZAH) will be inquiring into the way stars form in galaxies. The research team headed by Dr. Frank Bigiel engages with a number of central issues connected with the evolution of galaxies over cosmic time periods. How are galaxies supplied with new gas to form stars up until today and how is this gas distributed in galactic disks? How efficiently do galaxies transform gas into stars and what factors affect this process? The project “Galaxy Evolution in the ALMA Era – Star Formation in Nearby Galaxies and Beyond” is located at the ZAH’s Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics and is to be funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) over a period of five years to the tune of max. EUR 965,000.

Above all, Dr. Bigiel and his group will be studying the transformation of gas into stars on whole-galaxy scales. His main interest is in finding out why some galactic regions are much more efficient at forming stars than others, why different galaxies display very different star formation activity, and what factors regulate star formation rates in galaxies. In this, the group’s activities will focus on the outer regions of galaxies. Recent research has shown that active star formation takes place at distances much further apart than the diameters of galaxies alone would warrant. So far, star formation in such extreme environments is a complete mystery.

Frank Bigiel studied at Heidelberg University and obtained his doctorate there in 2008 with a dissertation completed at the Max Planck Institute of Astronomy (MPIA). As a postdoc at the University of California in Berkeley, he subsequently turned his attention to the physical properties of gas and dust in nearby galaxies and their connections with the star formation process. In summer 2011 he came to the ZAH as a Gliese Fellow and will now assemble his Emmy Noether Junior Research Group at the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics.

Dr. Frank Bigiel
Centre for Astronomy of Heidelberg University (ZAH)
phone: +49 6221 54-4206

Dr. Guido Thimm
Centre for Astronomy of Heidelberg University (ZAH)
phone: +49 6221 54-1805

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