The XX Canary Islands Winter School of Astrophysics (WS), organized by the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC), is dedicated to the study of Local Group Cosmology. The WS welcomes a maximum of 70 PhD students and young Post-Docs, and provides each year a unique opportunity for the participants to broaden their knowledge in a key field of Astronomy.

Scientific Rationale

One of the unresolved problems of modern astrophysics is how the galaxies we observe today were formed. The Cold dark matter paradigm predicts that large spiral galaxies like the Milky Way formed through the accretion and tidal disruption of satellite galaxies, a notion previously postulated on empirical grounds from the character of stellar populations found in our Galaxy. The Local Group galaxies are the best laboratory in which to investigate this galaxy formation processes since they are unique in that they can be studied with sufficiently high resolution to exhume the fossils of galactic evolution embedded in the spatial distribution, kinematics and chemical abundances of their oldest stars.

This “Galactic archeology” has recently undergone an unprecedented revolution, brought about by the spectacular increase in the quality and quantity of observations of Local Group galaxies using large aperture ground-based telescopes, the Hubble Space Telescope and the advent of the first large scale digital sky surveys (such as SLOAN and 2MASS) at the start of the XXI century.

The possibility of contrasting these observations with results on a small scale of cosmological simulations has drawn the attention of cosmologists towards the study of Local Group grand design galaxies and their satellites, thus giving rise to new lines of research that have involved numerous resources and a considerable observational and theoretical effort.The disagreement between the results of simulations and observations has also given rise to serious controversies among observers and theoretical cosmologists and is still the subject of active debate in the international community.

There is little doubt that the “golden age” of these investigations will take place in the coming years with the commissioning of ambitious observational projects such as the LSST (Large Synoptic Survey Telescope) in Chile or the launching of the astrometric satellite GAIA. These projects will constitute an enormous qualitative and quantitative leap in data and will require the training of young researchers in a field that has hitherto been the object of study for a relatively small number of scientists.

Outline of the School

The primary aim of the XX Winter School is to provide a wide-ranging and up-to-date overview of the theoretical, experimental and analytical tools necessary for carrying out front-line research in the study of the structure, formation and evolution of Local Group galaxies, based on the results of the latest cosmological simulations. The School is particularly designed to offer young researchers tips and guidelines to help them direct their future research towards these themes, which are among the most important in modern astrophysics.

The school will include an introduction to the physics of the Local Group galaxies, observational techniques, diagnostic tools and theoretical codes. It will review existing and planned experiments and surveys with a description of the analysis methods involved and the constraints imposed on theoretical models. This will be complemented by an overview of galactic and extragalactic foregrounds, as well as a summary of other major cosmological probes.

To achieve these goals, the WS lectures will be given by eight eminent and experienced scientists who are actively working on a variety of forefront research projects, and who have played a key role in major advances over the recent years. The list of invited researchers includes leading cosmologists and pioneering observers in each area of the subject who have been carefully chosen to represent all the leading research teams in each topic covered in the School, especially those topics where there is disagreement among the different teams. The format of the School will also encourage direct interaction between the participating students and lecturers, thus providing an excellent opportunity to discuss the above-mentioned controversies with leading researchers heading the international teams currently working towards resolving these cosmological problems.

The school is primarily intended for doctoral students and recent postdocs in any field of research in Astronomy. Participants of the WS will have the opportunity to display their current work by presenting a poster contribution (1m square panels). Dedicated sessions to discuss some of the posters will be organized within the WS.

The WS will take place in Puerto de la Cruz (Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain), from November 17th to 28th, 2008. The lectures will be delivered in English and will be published subsequently in a dedicated monograph. Speakers will present their topics in a series of four lectures. Strong emphasis will be given to interaction between speakers and students through discussion sessions, coffee breaks, and some excursions. Visits to the IAC's Headquarter in La Laguna, the Teide Observatory in Tenerife and the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory in La Palma will be scheduled as part of the activities.

The registration fee is Euro 1300.-, which covers the Conference Fee and full-board accommodation for thirteen days. Other WS activities and a copy of the monograph will be provided at no additional charge.

Those interested in attending the WS should send a Curriculum Vitae, a short summary of their current research project and a letter of reference from their thesis advisor, or Head of Department, by filling out the web forms in above links or by mailing to the address below. These should reach the IAC before June 30th. Selected candidates will be informed by September 7th.


James BULLOCK The missing satellite crisis in the Cold Dark Matter cosmology
Ken FREEMAN The formation of the Milky Way in the Cold Dark Matter paradigm
Puragra GUHATHAKURTA The Andromeda galaxy as cosmological laboratory
Rodrigo IBATA Stellar tidal streams in the Local Group
Pavel KROUPA Tidal dwarf galaxies in the Local Group as test of fundamental physics
Steven R.  MAJEWSKI Dark matter content and tidal effects in Local Group dwarf galaxies
Julio NAVARRO Dark halos, disk galaxies, and the satellite population
Hans-Walter RIX Does the Milky Way's halo live up to Cosmological expectations?

© 2008 Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias