Baby Galaxies: The First Steps toward the Milky Way
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Our Milky Way is a beautiful spiral galaxy and has been constantly growing since the beginning of time. How did the ancestors of the Milky Way form and look in the first billion years of the universe? Before galaxies form, isolated massive stars ignite from primordial gas composed of only hydrogen and helium. They forever changed the cosmic landscape by heating their surroundings and enriching the universe with the first heavy elements. These events spark the era of galaxy formation, where dwarf galaxies assemble first and then merge together to form larger and larger galaxies. Observations from the Hubble Space Telescope are just now uncovering these baby galaxies, and a wealth of information will come from the James Webb Space Telescope, due to launch in 2018. Supercomputer simulations of galaxy formation are vital to interpret these data and to learn about our cosmic origins. In my talk, I will present the latest results of supercomputer simulations that reveal the sequence of events that lead to the birth of the first galaxies in the universe.