Galaxy formation through the eyes of globular clusters

Team members: Mark Gieles (PI), Florent Renaud (PDRA), Eduardo Balbinot (PDRA), Filippo Contenta (PhD student), Ian Claydon (PhD student) and Miklos Peuten (PhD student)

Globular clusters (GCs) are among the first baryonic structures to form at a redshift of 10 and they witnessed the earliest phases of galaxy formation. Despite their ubiquity and importance for our understanding of the stellar initial mass function, star formation and chemical evolution in the early Universe, their origin is shrouded in mystery. They could have formed in gas rich discs, similarly to young massive clusters (YMCs) that we see forming today in starburst environments; or they could require a more exotic environment such as the centre of dark matter `mini-haloes'. The Milky Way GCs are resolved into their constituent stellar population making them the obvious place to look for clues. Their pristine properties are, however, affected by a Hubble time of dynamical evolution within an evolving Milky Way. This project aims at determining the initial properties of GCs, allowing them to be used as robust probes of early star formation, stellar evolution and cosmology.

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