Investigating Galaxy Evolution and Active Galactic Nucleus Feedback with the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich Effect

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Galaxy formation is a complex process with aspects that are still very uncertain or unknown. A mechanism that has been utilized in simulations to successfully resolve several of these outstanding

Galaxy formation is a complex process with aspects that are still very uncertain or unknown. A mechanism that has been utilized in simulations to successfully resolve several of these outstanding issues is active galactic nucleus (AGN) feedback. Recent work has shown that a promising method for directly measuring this energy is by looking at small increases in the energy of cosmic microwave background (CMB) photons as they pass through ionized gas, known as the thermal Sunyaev-Zel’dovich (tSZ) effect.

In this work, I present stacked CMB measurements of a large number of elliptical galaxies never before measured using this method. I split the galaxies into two redshift groups, "low-z" for z=0.5-1.0 and “high-z” for z=1.0-1.5. I make two independent sets of CMB measurements using data from the South Pole Telescope (SPT) and the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT), respectively, and I use data from the Planck telescope to account for contamination from dust emission. With SPT I find average thermal energies of 7.6(+3.0/−2.3) × 10^60 erg for 937 low-z galaxies, and 6.0(+7.7/−6.3) × 10^60 erg for 240 high-z galaxies. With ACT I find average thermal energies of 5.6(+5.9/−5.6) × 10^60 erg for 227 low-z galaxies, and 7.0(+4.7/−4.4) × 10^60 erg for 529 high-z galaxies.

I then attempt to further interpret the physical meaning of my observational results by incorporating two large-scale cosmological hydrodynamical simulations, one with (Horizon-AGN) and one without (Horizon-NoAGN) AGN feedback. I extract simulated tSZ measurements around a population of galaxies equivalent to those used in my observational work, with matching mass distributions, and compare the results. I find that the SPT measurements are consistent with Horizon-AGN, falling within 0.4σ at low-z and 0.5σ at high-z, while the ACT measurements are very different from Horizon-AGN, off by 6.9σ at low-z and 14.6σ at high-z. Additionally, the SPT measurements are loosely inconsistent with Horizon-NoAGN, off by 1.8σ at low-z but within 0.6σ at high-z, while the ACT measurements are loosely consistent with Horizon-NoAGN (at least much more so than with Horizon-AGN), falling within 0.8σ at low-z but off by 1.9σ at high-z.