Chris Churchill » Extragalactic Group

Chris Churchill

Professor NMSUAstronomy
575.646.1913 ADS Publications

Photo of Chris Churchill

Biographical Info


Dr. Churchill co-heads the Quasar Absorption Line – Galaxy Evolution Group, a collaborative effort between NMSU, Swinburne University of Technology, Penn state, and the University of Zurich. This research group studies galaxy evolution from the perspective of gas flows through galaxies. We are examining the connections between the large extended halos around galaxies (known as the circumgalactice medium), which can be 10 times larger than the stellar disks, and the galaxies themselves. In particular, we are studying the circumgalactic medium in the context of the stellar feedback mechanisms driving outflows and the cosmic web structures of the intergalactic medium from which gas inflows. The collaboration recently published the MgII Absorber-Galaxy Catalog (MAGIICAT).

Dr. Churchill specializes in observational spectroscopic techniques and analysis, including long slit and echelle formats. He has recently developed analysis tools, including an ionization code, to study the absorption line properties of simulated galaxies using the hydroART cosmological simulations.

For an introductory overview of Dr. Churchill’s Science see Introduction to QSO Absorption Lines in Cosmological Simulations.


Primary Advisor:
Elizabeth Klimek – studying the disk/halo cause and effect relationships in z=2-4 simulated galaxies
Nikki Nielsen – studying the MgII circumgalactic medium in z=0.1-1.0 galaxies
Nigel Mathes – studying the ionization conditions, metallicities, and kinematics in ~500 HIRES/UVES MgII systems
Jacob VanderVliet – studying the circumgalacitc medium using QSO absorption lines through simulated galaxies
Gavin Mathes – studying the kinematic evolution of MgII systems

Secondary Advisor:
Sebastian Trujillo-Gomez (PhD 6/2014) studying stellar feedback and galaxy evolution in simulated galaxies
Kenza Arraki – studying the effects on dark matter halos due to baryonic gas physics


Jessica Evans (5/2011) MgII Quasar Absorption Line Systems as a Probe of Galaxy Structural and Kinematic Evolution
Glenn Kacprzak (7/2008) The Morphological, Kinematic, and Halo Gas Properties of MgII Absorption Selected Galaxies at Intermediate Redshift
Brandon Lawton (7/2008) Diffuse Interstellar Bands in Damped Lyman-Alpha and Starburst Galaxies
Don Lubowich (7/2006) The Galactic Deuterium Distribution

Allison Campbell (7/2008) Gas Dynamics in the Milky Way Galaxy
Sarah Giandoni (5/2005) Absorption Lines and Galaxies toward PKS 0312-77


Recent graduates
  • Student name (link?), PhD, year. “Thesis title.”
  • Student name (link?), PhD, year. “Thesis title.”

Semester: Course(s)

Dr. Churchill has taught many undergraduate college level courses related to Astronomy and Physics, including ‘Astrophotography”, “Introduction to Astronomy”, “Life in the Universe”, “Into the Final Frontier” (a course on with focus on the Moon Race), and “Space Colonization”. He has also taught the graduate courses “Quasar Absorption Lines”, “Interstellar Medium”, and “Stellar Spectroscopy” (which is partially a “Stellar Atmospheres” course). Dr. Churchill is currently working hard to complete a graduate level text book entitled Absorption Line Spectroscopy of Cosmological Sources to be published in the Astrophysics Series of Cambridge University Press. His favorite non-extragalactic astrophysics topics in the class room are “Life in the Universe” and “Human Space Flight”.

Selected recent publications (student authors denoted by *):

The Self-Similarity of the Circumgalactic Medium with Galaxy Virial Mass: Implications for Cold-Mode Accretion
Churchill, C.W., Nielsen, N.M, Kacprzak, G.G., & Trujillo-Gomez, S. 2013, ApJ, 763, L42

Quenched Accretion of a Large Scale Metal-Poor Filement due to Virial Shocking in the Halo of a Massive z=0.7 Galaxy
Churchill, C.W., Kacprzak, G.G, Steidel, C.C., Spitler, L.R., Holtzman, J.A., Nielsen, N.M., & Trujillo-Gomez, S. 2012, ApJ, 760, 68

Tracing Outflows and Accretion: A Bimodal Azimuthal Dependence of MgII Absorption
Kacprzak, G.G, Churchill, C.W., & Nielsen, N.M, 2012, ApJ, 760, L7

The HI Mass Density in Galactc Halos, Winds, and Cold Accretion as Traced by MgII Absorption
Kacprzak, G.G., & Churchill, C.W. 2011, ApJ, 743, L34

Halo Gas and Galaxy Disk Kinematics Derived from Observations and ΛCDM Simulations of MgII Absorption Selected Galaxies
Kacprzak G. G., Churchill, Ceverino, D., Steidel, C. C., Klypin, A., & Murphy, M. T. 2010, ApJ, 711, 533

MgII Absorption through Intermediate Redshift Galaxies
Churchill, C.W., Kacprzak, G.G., & Steidel, C.C. 2005, Invited Talk (Review), in Probing Galaxies through Quasar Absorption Lines, IAU 199


All Publications