The interaction of galaxies with their environment, the Intergalactic Medium (IGM), is an important aspect of galaxy formation. One of the most fundamental, but unanswered questions in the evolution of galaxies is how gas circulates in and around galaxies and how it enters the galaxies to support star formation. We have several lines of evidence that the observed evolution of star formation requires gas accretion from the IGM at all times and on all cosmic scales. This gas remains largely unaccounted for and the outstanding questions are where this gas resides and what the physical mechanisms of accretion are. The gas is expected to be embedded in an extended cosmic web made of sheets and filaments. Such large-scale filaments of gas are expected by cosmological numerical simulations, which have made significant progress in recent years. Such simulations do not only model the large scale structure of the cosmic web, but also investigate the neutral gas component. To truly make significant progress in understanding the distribution of neutral hydrogen in the IGM, column densities of NHI=10^18 cm-2 and below have to be probed over large areas on the sky at sub-arcminute resolution. These are the densities of the faintest structures known today around nearby galaxies, though mostly found with single dish telescopes which do not have the resolution to resolve these structures and investigate any kinematics. Existing interferometers lack the collecting power or short baselines to achieve brightness sensitivities typically below NHI=10^19 cm-2. Reaching lower column densities with current facilities is feasible, however requires prohibitively long observing times. The SKA will for the first time break these barriers, enabling interferometric observations an order of magnitude deeper than current interferometers and with an order of magnitude better linear resolution than single-dish telescopes.
Advancing Astrophysics with the Square Kilometre Array (AASKA14)
- Pub Date:
- April 2015
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies;
- Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics
- 21 pages, 6 figures, to be published in: "Advancing Astrophysics with the Square Kilometre Array", Proceedings of Science, PoS(AASKA14)132