Avi Loeb: The Origins of Galaxies

Theoretical Astrophysicist, Harvard—Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

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The year 2010 marks a major transition point in studies of the first stars and galaxies. Until now, most of the research has been theoretical. The next decade will bring about a new generation of large telescopes with unprecedented sensitivity that promise to supply a flood of data about the infant universe during its first billion years after the Big Bang. Among the new observatories are the James Webb Space Telescope—the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope—and three extremely large telescopes on the ground. The fresh data on the first galaxies and the diffuse gas in between them will test existing theories about the formation and radiative effects of the first galaxies, and might even reveal new physics that has not yet been anticipated. This emerging interface between theory and observation will constitute an ideal opportunity for students considering a research career in astrophysics or cosmology. Since this is an ideal time to introduce new researchers to the field, I decided to write a book that summarizes the fundamental principles and theoretical ideas from the perspective of my own work over the past two decades.

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