Worth 1.4 million euros over the next five years, the grant will look at Globular Clusters (GCs), which play a pivotal role in our understanding of how galaxies form.
Research during the last two decades has opened up a new window into the interconnectedness of GCs and galaxy formation and co-evolution. Now, Professor Bastian’s project, combined with what is known about massive cluster formation in the local Universe, will provide an unprecedented opportunity to use GCs to constrain the hierarchical assembly of galaxies.
GCs, once thought to only be able to form in the special conditions present in the early Universe, are now known to be still forming today (known as Young Massive Clusters - YMCS). Additionally, it is now clear that GCs are not the simple objects that they were once thought to be, but instead show complex variations in chemical abundances between the stars within them.
Professor Bastian said:
"Globular Clusters are among the oldest luminous sources in the universe, bearing witness to the earliest stages of galaxy formation as well as their evolution to the present day. While GCs have played a pivotal role in our understanding of the assembly of galaxies, their full potential remains unfulfilled due to our lack of understanding of how they form. One of the largest stumbling blocks has been the anomalous chemical abundances of stars within GCs relative to stars in the Galaxy not in clusters. In this project, we will turn the problem around and exploit these differences to understand the co-evolution of GCs and their host galaxies."
This ambitious undertaking will be carried out by the PI (Professor Nate Bastian), along with three postdoctoral researchers, and three doctoral students. The title of the project is: Fulfilling the Potential of Globular Clusters as Tracers of Cosmological Mass Assembly.
Competition for European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grants is fierce. The aim of these grants is "to support researchers at the stage at which they are consolidating their own independent research team or programme, and to strengthen independent and excellent new individual research teams that have been recently created."
Set up in 2007 by the European Union, the European Research Council is the first pan-European funding organisation for frontier research. It aims to stimulate scientific excellence in Europe by encouraging competition for funding between the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age. The ERC operates according to an 'investigator-driven' or 'bottom-up', approach, allowing researchers to identify new opportunities in any field of research, without thematic priorities. Since 2007, the ERC has funded over 4,500 projects throughout Europe.