Christine WilsonExtragalactic Star Formation
Faculty of Science
Department of Physics & Astronomy
MCMASTER EXPERTS PROFILE
Using millimeter-wave radio techniques to examine star formation.
Stars are the building blocks of galaxies. Examining how they form holds the key to understanding how planets form, how the brightest galaxies shine, and how the early universe produced the chemical elements essential for life.
Does the rate of star formation determine what type of galaxy will form? Or does the type of galaxy determine the rate of star formation?
These are among the important questions astrophysicist Christine Wilson is attempting to answer. A world expert on the structure and evolution of star formation within galaxies, her prolific work in millimeter-wave radio astronomy, the newest technique for exploring the properties of the interstellar medium, is revolutionizing our view of the universe.
Her latest tool is the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the world’s most sophisticated ground-based radio telescope located in the Chilean Andes. Wilson was Canadian Project Scientist for the international collaboration that designed and built the new telescope, whose 66 high-precision antennas will allow scientists to see further and deeper into the universe than ever before.
She will use ALMA to examine how physical and chemical changes in the gas that is the fuel for star formation act to regulate the local and global rate of star formation in galaxies of various types and environments, and calibrate these methods for studying young distant galaxies in the early universe.
Wilson’s work will prove crucial to uncovering the secrets of galaxy evolution and answering our most basic questions about how galaxies form and when the universe began.