Probing galaxy evolution by unveiling the structure of massive galaxies across cosmic time and in diverse environments
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How galaxies form and evolve is one of the primary outstanding problems in extragalactic astronomy. I conduct a quantitative census of the relative importance of the major structural components (flattened and dynamically cold disk-dominated components versus puffy and dynamically hot spheroidal or triaxial bulges/ellipticals) in massive galaxies over cosmic time and across different environments in order to explore how galaxies evolve under the action of the various assembly mechanisms (major mergers, minor mergers, gas accretion, and internal secular processes) in these different regimes. I perform three inter-related analyses focusing on massive galaxies from z ~ 0 - 3 in both field and rich cluster environments. Important strengths of this thesis include the use of high-resolution, panchromatic imaging from some of the largest and deepest galaxy surveys with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), Spitzer, and Chandra space telescopes, and also the inclusion of detailed comparisons between the empirical data and hierarchical ΛCDM-based models of galaxy evolution.
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