Spectacular starburst and AGN activity occurs when mergers of gas-rich systems funnel massive amounts of molecular gas and dust into the remnant centers of ultraluminous infrared galaxies (ULIRGs). In these compact regions molecular gas rotating in the cores obscures and feeds the activity. Much of the ongoing research into initial phases of galaxy building, however, also focuses on the pre-ULIRG phases of starbursts, QSOs and assembly of galaxies via major mergers. These phases parallel conditions in lower luminosity starbursts (LIRGs) with spatially extended starburst regions. Detailed studies of LIRGS, ULIRGs, and AGN in the near-field are therefore essential both for defining the evolution of present day galaxies and sorting out key astrophysical processes in their more distant predecessors. Probing the nature and evolution of the ISM, a primary evolutionary vector in starburst and AGN activity, requires tracers that penetrates vast columns of dust while enabling unique investigations of chemical and physical conditions in the molecular gas and dust. The most compact obscured nuclei, for example, need to be studied with radiatively excited molecular emission to get past the optically thick barrier. We founded the European MasTER Network to take advantage of emerging opportunities to address the nature of AGNs and starbursts, their associated molecular outflows in the context of their evolution and the starburst-AGN connection near and far.
Full Professor at Radio Astronomy and Astrophysics
Funding Chalmers participation during 2012–2014