Unraveling hierarchical galaxy formation: the potential from galaxy stellar halos in deep imaging surveys
Stellar halos are amazingly rich records of their host galaxy’s history. During the hierarchical galaxy formation process smaller galaxies are stripped apart in the outskirts of their larger hosts, leaving their stars as tracers of their origin. This tidal debris survives for Gigayears as stellar streams and substructures and is sensitive to the underlying gravitational potential, providing constraints on the nature of dark matter as well as galaxy formation physics. Upcoming large surveys such as those from the Rubin Observatory and the Roman Space Telescope will provide an unprecedented deep and wide view of this low-surface brightness discovery space, and will be able to detect stellar halo substructure for numerous galaxies in our nearby universe. In this talk I will highlight how using a variety of modeling techniques can aid in understanding and disentangling key physical processes in hierarchical galaxy formation and their link to observational signatures. These insights and predictions will facilitate the interpretation of observations by the next generation of telescopes.