Central to the galaxy formation modeling efforts at Northwestern is the FIRE project. FIRE (Feedback In Realistic Environments) is a project aiming to dramatically increase the predictive power of cosmological simulations of galaxy formation by
1) Directly resolving the formation of giant molecular clouds (GMCs), the rate limiting for star formation in galactic disks, and
2) Explicitly implementing the energy and momentum return from all the main stellar feedback processes directly following the predictions of stellar population synthesis models.
By resolving the main units for star formation and the stellar feedback processes that regulate their formation, the FIRE simulations are allowing us to free ourselves of sub-resolution models for star formation and stellar feedback that have been standard in cosmological simulations to date, and which have severely limited their predictive power.
Because our simulations directly resolve the main structures in the interstellar medium (ISM) of galaxies, they are also allowing us to connect cosmological studies of galaxy formation with studies of star formation on galactic scales, two fields which have traditionally been the focus of distinct communities. This new connection is enabling rapid progress in our understanding of many of the key processes that govern galaxy evolution but which could not be resolved in the cosmological context previously.
We are currently working to expand FIRE to include the growth of massive black holes and feedback from them.
For more information (including publications and visualizations), visit the FIRE project web site.