Jason Kalirai (STSci)

Galaxy Formation and Evolution in the Next Decade

A fundamental quest of modern astrophysics is the study of how the basic building blocks of the Universe, galaxies, form and evolve. Our knowledge of the structure and assembly processes of these systems comes primarily from two flavors of studies; detailed observations of individual stars in nearby resolved stellar populations and large surveys of galaxies outside our neigborhood. For the former approach, a lack of statistics has hampered our ability to generalize the picture of one galaxy (i.e., the Milky Way) to a global sense of galaxy formation. In this talk, I'll first discuss several recent results from large imaging and spectroscopic projects targeting Local Group galaxies. The observed characteristics (e.g., structure, age, metallicity, and kinematics) of both dwarf galaxies in the Local Group and M31 itself have been measured with unprecedented detail, and directly inform the stochastic processes that have shaped galaxies to their present state. Second, I'll present some thoughts on how such resolved photometric and spectroscopic studies can be extended to a sample of galaxies beyond the Local Group in the next decade. The success of these studies is directly tied to several planned future observatories, such as LSST, 30-m telescopes, and JWST.