The XGAL 2019 interns: Heather, Amaia, Emma, Cassandra, Josh & Harry.

Meet the 2019 XGAL interns! From studying very distant galaxies and their giant haloes to understanding a puzzling galaxy merger nicknamed “Enterprise” and sharing our discoveries and key concepts with people from all over the World.

Amaia Imaz Blanco – Time travelling through the Universe from Lancaster to the World

I have just finished my first year at Lancaster University, studying Physics, Astrophysics, and Cosmology. Being the only first year on the project this year, I’m very excited to have been given this opportunity, as working in an Astrophysics group at a University is something I have always wanted to do, from the moment that I discovered my passion for Astrophysics. In this project I will be doing some of the outreach aspects of the SC4K sample of distant galaxies, as well as creating a 3D fly through of part of the universe explored with the SC4K data. This requires knowledge of Python, which is a language I’ve never used and so I’m very excited to learn and gain knowledge that will give me a step up in future years on my program and after my degree. 

Heather Wade – Time travelling through the Universe from Lancaster to the World

I have recently completed my Master’s degree here at Lancaster University in Physics, Astrophysics and Cosmology and I will be continuing in the Astrophysics Group as a PhD student, studying the physics and evolution of galaxies in the epoch of re-ionisation with Dr David Sobral. This XGAL internship is focusing on outreach activities, which really interest me as they helped me to discover my interest in Astrophysics at an early age. We are also trying (!) to create a “fly-through” video showing images of galaxies as one moves through different redshifts. The internship also gives me the opportunity to work in an astrophysics group before I begin my PhD. I hope that the work I do here encourages young people into this amazing branch of physics, while also learning a lot of new things myself along the way.

Josh Butterworth – Back in time with the largest telescopes: studying the ancestors of local galaxies

I have recently finished my third year studying Physics with Astrophysics and Cosmology at Lancaster University. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to partake in real astrophysical research. I believe this internship, since it is more like a job in the sector as opposed to my experiences at university, will be very useful for me to find out whether I would like to pursue a career in the research sector. The reliance on coding, specifically Python in this internship will be extremely useful to me, as I believe it can only improve my ability in this area.  Also, I believe this experience will help me prepare for the MPhys project I will be completing next year with Dr. Brooke Simmons, which will be looking at the possible unusual means by which galaxies and their supermassive black holes may co-evolve. My internship project will allow me to determine the Stellar mass function and the UV luminosity function of very distant Lyman-alpha emitters and how it evolved in the very young Universe.

Harry Baker – The LancAstro XGAL-Python package for Astrophysics and Data Science

I have just finished my 3rd year studying Physics with Astrophysics and Cosmology at Lancaster and now have the chance to work with the XGAL team. The aim of my internship will be to produce LancAstro.py; a package of Python scripts for various common tasks performed by students and staff alike. These will be organised into well commented generic scripts for plotting, fitting, image reduction, spectral analysis and many more. Brilliantly, I will get to see how most of the research in astrophysics conducted in the department is done by studying and compiling the numerous scripts used across the research group. Being able to study space and astrophysics is what drove me since at least 10 years old to take a physics degree because it is so exciting to think what may lie out there, so this internship will be a great opportunity to be a part of that study. For my MPhys project, I’ll be working to create machine learning algorithms for use onboard spacecraft so they can intelligently collect and transmit data within the constraints of the poor data rate that spacecraft transmit at so far from Earth. I’m therefore grateful for the coding skills I’ll gain in this internship that’ll aid me in the future.   

Emma Dodd – Giant Lyman-alpha haloes across time with SC4K

I have just finished my third year of Physics with Astrophysics and Cosmology here at Lancaster University. I am now looking forward to starting the work for this summer’s internship, here with David Sobral. Each year I have completed a summer internship having to first learn how to code in the requested language, mainly Python, and how to use the relevant software. This year I feel more prepared due to the previous experience I have had, and so I can jump into the science right away! During this internship, I hope to gain a better understanding of the formation of Lyman-alpha haloes around galaxies across a wide redshift range, from the epoch of reionisation (z~6) to the peak of star formation (z~2).  Lyman-alpha photons are produced during recombination of Hydrogen atoms around hot stars or super-massive black holes and these photons can easily scatter up to large distances, creating large faint Lyman-alpha haloes. In this internship, we aim to investigate the detection, measurement and interpretation of Lyman-alpha haloes around ~4,000 Lyman-alpha emitters discovered by the Lancaster group (SC4K) in the COSMOS field.

Cassandra Barlow-Hall – The connection between galaxy mergers and the growth of their central super- massive black hole with integral field unit (IFU) resolved data

I have just finished my third year studying Astrophysics here at Lancaster University and this summer I will be joining the XGAL team to continue my exploration of space! Last year I worked on an internship with David Sobral and XGAL to explore and catalogue all galaxies within a MUSE datacube (the Pigeon Survey), which discovered a triple merger of galaxies. This triple merger was designated The Enterprise Merger, owing to its distinctive appearance. My mission on this year’s XGAL internship is to investigate The Enterprise Triple Merger and identify some key features. In order to better understand this merger, I will explore the velocity of the galaxies across the system, calculate the metallicity gradients of the merger and find the masses of the three components of this merger. I have always been interested in space and how the universe came to be the way it is today. As my goal now it to become a researcher in astrophysics I hope this internship will give me better experience which I can take forwards into my Master Project next year and any research I do after, as well as ultimately allowing us to better understand mergers such as The Enterprise Merger. And of course we should find some exciting stuff along the way! 

Get to know what and how we do what we do: time travelling to the distant Universe to discover and study super distant galaxies!