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Expected progress and break-throughs in ground-based extragalactic astronomy Ralf Bender ESO Council FORS Deep Field. Achievements and Challenges 2003: Cosmological framework in which galaxies evolve is now sufficiently well determined.

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Expected progress and break-throughs in

ground-based extragalactic astronomy

Ralf Bender

ESO Council

FORS Deep Field


  • Achievementsand Challenges2003:

  • Cosmological framework in which galaxies evolve is now

  • sufficiently well determined.

  • WMAP and Planck are determining the cosmological

  • parameters with increasing accuracy.

  • The main cosmological problems of the future are the

  • nature of dark matter and dark energy. Attacking these in

  • the astrophysical context requires both detailed studies of

  • galaxies and clusters ( central dark matter density profiles)

  • and large O/NIR/submm surveys ( nature of dark energy

  • from SNIa, clusters; dark matter distribution from lensing).


  • Achievementsand Challenges 2003 (continued):

  • Evolution of cold dark matter ‘easy’ to model and seems

  • understood at scales larger than galaxy size.

  • Evolution of baryonic component complex and not at all

  • well understood (difficult interplay between star formation,

  • nuclear activity, different gas phases, collaps and merging).

  • Stellar ages of galaxies in conflict with hierarchical formation?

  • (massive galaxies are old, low mass galaxies young)

  • Formation of supermassive black holes in galaxy centers

  • in relation to galaxy formation/evolution still in the dark…


New capabilities on the ground and

synergies with space observatories


  • Imaging capabilites in optical/NIR will reach hundreds

  • of megapixels (VST/OmegaCAM: 2004, VISTA: 2007)

  • Multicolor optical-IR surveys enable reliable photometric

    redshifts and classifications for tens of millions of galaxies.

    The evolution of type-dependent galaxy luminosity functions

    can be derived, cosmic variance can be analyzed, and

    targets for follow-up (e.g. spectroscopy) with large ground-

    based telescopes and satellites can be selected.

  • The dark matter distribution can be analyzed with the weak

    gravitational shear effect.

    Variable objects (AGN, SNIa) can be searched efficiently.

  • Combination with surveys in X-rays, radio, submm, HST…

  • opens new research opportunities ( Virtual Observatory)


  • The spectroscopic survey capabilities for galaxy

  • studies are increasing rapidly (FORS, ISAAC: 1998,

  • VIMOS: 2003, FLAMES: 2003, KMOS, MUSE: 2009)

  • Evolution of large scale structure / galaxy clustering can

  • be analyzed to high redshifts.

  • Intrinsic kinematics, stellar population properties, gas

    content and star formation activity of galaxies can be

    measured to highest z allowing to follow the mass

    assembly and morphology evolution over time.

  •  Complementary observations by Hubble Space Telescope

  • are crucial for detailed structural analysis (radii, densities,

  • disk-to-bulge ratios …): GOODS, GEMS, COSMOS…


  • Adaptive optics and laser beacons will increase the

  • spatial resolution by a factor of ~3 over HST over

  • tens of arcseconds (NACO, SINFONI: 2003, 2005)

  • Detailed structural and kinematical studies of merging

    and star-forming galaxies up to high redshift.

  • Analysis of physical conditions in Active Galactic Nuclei.

  • Search for inactive supermassive black holes in nearby

    galaxies.

  • Structure of star formation regions in nearby galaxies

    (most of these fields up to now served by HST)


  • VLT Interferometry of relatively faint sources will

  • become possible through PRIMA and can provide

  • spatial resolutions in the milliarcsec range: ~2007

  • In the Galactic center, the black hole parameters can be

    determined more accurately. General relativistic effects

    can be measured (precession of pericenter of stellar orbits)

  • Interferometry is the only way to study the dust tori around

    the central engines of Active Galactic Nuclei (the dust tori

    are expected to have a crucial influence on the nature of

    an AGN).


  • ALMA will open a new window to sensitive, high

  • resolution mm and sub-mm observations: >2007

  • ALMA can analyse the mm and submm continuum and

    thousands of molecular lines to characterize dust and

    gas in the universe (wavelength and spatial resolution

    complementary to Herschel).

  • ALMA will provide a view complementary to O/IR into the

    assembly of galaxies and dust-enshrouded violent star

    formation processes that may have produced a large fraction

    of all stars in the universe, especially those in spheroids.

  • ALMA will allow to probe the collapse of the first massive

    galaxy fragments before they have largely turned into stars.

  • ALMA can detect molecular absorption lines in many quasars,

    the Sunyaev-Zeldovich ( Planck) effect to high redshift, ...


  • An ELT/OWL will lead into a new era of ground-based

  • extragalactic astronomy because of its superb

  • resolution and extreme light collecting power: >2012

  • High redshift universe can be studied in the same detail

    as the local universe today (e.g. SDSS at z~3 is possible).

  • High resolution spectra of intergalactic medium allow

    detailed analysis of chemical enrichment history.

  • Earliest phases of star and galaxy formation at z>7

    (complementary to ALMA in wavelength and to

    JWST in resolution and light collecting power)

  • Systematic studies of large numbers of SNIa to constrain

    nature of dark energy.

  • Analysis of local galaxies as we analyse the Galaxy

    today (stellar populations, assembly history)


World class facilities for extragalactic astronomy beyond 2010 ground space
World-class facilities for extragalactic astronomy beyond 2010 (ground,space):

  • 8-10m class O/IR telescopes

    • With adaptive optics & second generation instruments

    • Linked interferometrically (VLTI)

    • Supported by survey telescopes (VST, VISTA)

  • ALMA, Herschel for mm/submm regime

  • HST: UV, O, NIR; followed by JWST: O, NIR, MIR

  • Extremely Large Telescopes (OWL?)

  • LOFAR, and eventually SKA, for radio regime

  • GAIA: spectroscopy and kinematics of the Milky Way

  • High-energyobservatories


What extragalactic astronomy may be missing in uv o nir capabilities
What extragalactic astronomy may be missing in UV/O/NIR capabilities:

  • Wide-field high spatial resolution UV/O satellite (SNAP?).

  • The survey satellite for the low surface brightness universe:

    SB ~ (1+z)-4 , i.e.

    the central surface

    brightness of the

    Galaxy’s disk at

    z ~ 3 is about

    28 KAB/arcsec2!!

    i.e., JWST can do

    it, but a satellite

    like PRIME or WISE

    is more efficient.


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