Markov chain Monte Carlo modeling of high-redshift quasar host galaxies in Hubble Space Telescope imaging
Quasars, the visible phenomena associated with the active accretion phase of super- massive black holes found in the centers of galaxies, represent one of the most energetic processes in the Universe. As matter falls into the central black hole, it is accelerated and collisionally heated, and the radiation emitted can outshine the combined light of all the stars in the host galaxy. Studies of quasar host galaxies at ultraviolet to near-infrared wavelengths are fundamentally limited by the precision with which the light from the central quasar accretion can be disentangled from the light of stars in the surrounding host galaxy. In this Dissertation, I discuss direct imaging of quasar host galaxies at redshifts z ≃ 2 and z ≃ 6 using new data obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope. I describe a new method for removing the point source flux using Markov Chain Monte Carlo parameter estimation and simultaneous modeling of the point source and host galaxy. I then discuss applications of this method to understanding the physical properties of high-redshift quasar host galaxies including their structures, luminosities, sizes, and colors, and inferred stellar population properties such as age, mass, and dust content.