Lorentz Center - What Regulates Galaxy Evolution? from 22 Apr 2013 through 26 Apr 2013
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    What Regulates Galaxy Evolution?
    from 22 Apr 2013 through 26 Apr 2013


Galaxy formation and evolution is a complex process involving the physics of gas heating/cooling, star formation, black-hole formation, and myriad feedback processes. Progress towards understanding these physical processes is further complicated by the fact that they take place within the context of large-scale structure formation in the universe. Recent years have seen significant progress in the field; however, we are still far from models of galaxy formation that employ the relevant physics in realistic ways, and correctly predict the properties and abundances of galaxies measured in observations.


This workshop brought together a diverse group of theoretical and observational astronomers working in the field of galaxy evolution. The goal of the workshop was to discuss recent progress on understanding the processes that regulate galaxy evolution. A significant portion of the workshop was devoted to identifying the most interesting open questions in galaxy evolution, and how progress can be made on these problems.


A total of 42 astronomers participated in the workshop.  The workshop days were divided into four topics, “massive central galaxies”, “low-mass central galaxies”, “satellite galaxy observations”, and “satellite galaxy theory”. The format was designed so that each day started with a review talk on recent progress in the field. This talk was then counterpointed by an “open questions” talk led by a senior researcher in the field.  The open question talks were designed to highlight where gaps currently exist in both theory and observations, and how these might be addressed in future work. Having these contrasting talks (i.e., current successes vs. current failures) back-to-back was stimulating and provided discussion material for longer discussion sessions later in the day. We would certainly recommend this format to future conference organizers as an excellent way to stimulate discussion.


The discussions and presentations in the conference served as the basis for a small review paper on the most important open questions in galaxy evolution. That paper is set be published in the journal of New Astronomy Reviews, and the conference organizers are in the process of drafting it. That paper reviews the most interesting open questions in the field, as decided by the participants and the most often returned-to discussion points. 


Based on the discussions, we concluded that four important open questions in the field were, 1. Are we reaching a fundamental limit in accuracy to which we can measure the properties of galaxies? 2. What are the star formation histories of the lowest-mass galaxies? 3. Does the standard division of central/satellite galaxies really provide the best framework to study galaxy evolution? 4. When do galaxies that are satellites in a halo stop behaving like centrals in their own halo?


The diversity of these open questions highlight the current status of the field. Some are technical questions, whereas others are about unknown physics.  In other words, it is clear that not only is more knowledge necessary, but also new techniques need to be developed in order to address the current issues.


The Lorentz Center format was ideal for this conference and we would like to thank the organizing committee, particularly Ikram Cakir, Mieke Schutte, and Henriette Jensenius for making the conference run so smoothly, and overall being an excellent success.