Stars such as the Sun lie in galaxies that are collections of billions of stars, separated from other galaxies by vast distances. These galaxies can take many forms, from flat, spinning disks like our own Milky Way, to giant nearly spherical galaxies that lie at the center of galaxy clusters. We would like to know how these shapes arise, and where the spins came from. We know that galaxies probably formed from the gravitational collapse of clouds of gas in the early Universe. In principle, the patterns of galaxy shapes and spins that we see nowadays has preserved information about what happened at the very beginning. Enormous new surveys of millions of galaxies that are being carried out today will enable us to measure these patterns very precisely.
This project will use computer models of galaxy formation to explore how the conditions at these very early times dictated what we see in the Universe around us today. In particular, it seeks to investigate how galaxies form, how they get their shapes and why they spin. It will also examine whether these calculations show correlations between the shapes and spins of neighboring galaxies. The possibility that galaxy shapes and spins are correlated has important implications for other projects that try to measure the bending of light by the gravitational fields of these galaxies (known as gravitational lensing). ***