Star formation and evolution and stellar populations
By studying the gas and stars that shape the Milky Way as well as other galaxies in the local Universe, we can understand the life cycles of stars like our Sun, unravel the chemical enrichment history of the universe, and probe the existence of black holes across a wide mass spectrum.
Stellar evolution modelling
The theory of stellar evolution and the calculation of stellar evolution models provide the foundations of a range of techniques commonly applied to the study of star clusters and galaxies. The main tools are stellar evolution models, tracks and isochrones. Our research activity aims at improving the description of the physics inputs required to calculate accurate models, testing them, and at the same time providing large model libraries suitable to study ages, chemical composition, star formation histories of simple and composite, resolved and unresolved stellar populations in galaxies and star clusters.
Galaxies like the Milky Way host a large variety of star clusters, ranging from low-mass open clusters that only formed recently to massive globular clusters that appear to be relics from the infancy of the universe. Such clusters are ideal probes to advance our understanding of stellar evolution. At the same time, they enable us to understand black holes mergers and investigate the existence of the enigmatic intermediate-mass black holes. In our research, we study star clusters by combining state-of-the art stellar evolutionary models with cutting-edge observations from facilities such as the James Webb Space Telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE).
While the Milky Way provides us with a unique opportunity to study a galaxy in great detail, it is only a single example. We use deep observations of nearby galaxies to build a full picture of the formation and evolution of disc galaxies. A key instrument for those studies is MUSE on the VLT. In particular, we are involved in GECKOS: a deep MUSE survey of 35 nearby galaxies, aiming to determine the relative importance between internal and external physical processes that drive the evolution of disc galaxies. GECKOS will deliver spatially resolved measurements of stellar abundances, ages, and kinematics, as well as ionized gas properties, and inflow and outflow kinematics; all key parameters for building a complete chemodynamical picture of disc galaxies.
- MUSE – The panoramic integral-field spectrograph at the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) is a workhorse instrument for our group.
- APOGEE - Understanding the formation and evolution of the Milky Way through high-resolution near-infrared spectroscopy of 10,000s of stars.
- BaSTI – A library of stellar models and isochrones covering all major evolutionary phases, to study stellar populations in the Milky Way and external galaxies.
- GECKOS - A deep VLT/MUSE survey of 35 nearby edge-on galaxies.
- A closer look at the binary content of NGC 1850, Saracino et al. 2023: We characterize the binary stars in the young massive star cluster NGC 1850 and find several candidates that might be orbiting black holes.
- NGC 5746: Formation history of a massive disc-dominated galaxy, Martig et al. 2021: We use MUSE to probe the structure and formation history of a massive edge-on disc galaxy and find indications of a past merger.
- How stellar rotation shapes the colour-magnitude diagram of the massive intermediate-age star cluster NGC 1846, Kamann et al. 2020: We show that young star clusters host distinct populations of slowly and fast rotating stars, and that the rotation velocities of the stars have a strong impact on their location in the clusters’ colour-magnitude diagrams.
Follow the links to find out more about our PhD program and the list of projects that are currently available. Or contact any of our staff to learn more about their work and whether they are currently offering any PhD projects.
Who we are
Click on the portrait pictures to learn more about the scientists involved in this research group.