Welcome to Institute for Astronomy

Lilly, Simon J., Prof.

Research Groups

Extragalactic Astrophysics
(Lead: Prof. Carollo)
Observational Cosmology
(Lead: Prof. Lilly)
Star and Planet Formation
(Lead: Prof. Meyer)
(Lead: Prof. Refregier)
Black Holes
(Lead: Prof. Schawinski)
ETH Zurich
Institute for Astronomy
Floor J 11.2
Wolfgang-Pauli-Strasse 27
8093 Zurich
+41 44 633 3828 phone
+41 44 633 1238 fax

Group web-page

Education 1980 B.A. in Natural Sciences (Physics and Theoretical Physics, 1st Class Hons.); Cambridge University (UK)

1984 Ph.D. in Astronomy; Edinburgh University (UK). Thesis: "The evolution of radio galaxies" (M.S. Longair, supervisor).

Employment 2002 - present Professor, ETH Zurich 

2000 - 2002 Director General, Herzberg Inst. of Astrophys. (NRC Canada)

1990 - 2000 Associate/Full Professor, University of Toronto

1985 - 1990 Assistant/Associate Professor, University of Hawaii

1984 - 1985 SERC/NATO Research Fellow, Princeton University

Research Interests
Observational Cosmology and the Formation and Evolution of Structure in the Universe

The evolution of galaxies: We seek to chart how galaxies have evolved over cosmic time, and to identify and understand those physical processes that have shaped their properties in different environments and at different epochs. A flagship project is zCOSMOS, a major redshift survey using 600 hours on the ESO VLT to obtain redshifts of approximately 30,000 galaxies in the COSMOS field, in the redshift range 0.1 < z < 3.5. The project is specifically designed to characterize the environments of galaxies in the distant Universe, from the 100kpc scale of the immediate group environment to the 100 Mpc scale of the cosmic web. A major focus at present is to identify the underlying simplicities of the galaxy population, today and at earlier times, and to use these to identify the phenomenological characteristics of the dominant physical processes involved.

The intergalactic medium: As an extension of our interest in the environment of galaxies, we are developing new ways to detect the intergalactic medium (IGM), the gaseous material between galaxies. Galaxies form out of the IGM and exchange material with it throughout their lives. We are currently working on detecting and characterizing galactic outflows through the study of metal absorption lines, and in detecting the extended filamentary structure of the IGM at high redshifts through fluorescent emission.

Magnetic fields in galaxies: The origin of galactic-scale magnetic fields is poorly understood, and their role in cosmic structure formation is unknown, and thus they usually ignored. We are trying to fill this gap by detecting magnetic fields in and around galaxies at high redshift.

Galaxies as cosmological probes: Very large samples of galaxies at different redshifts are increasingly being used as precision probes of the dynamical evolution of the Universe as a whole, especially to study the emergence of Dark Energy over the redshift interval 0 < z < 2. The ultimate success of this effort will require the detailed consideration of the evolving properties of galaxies. We have a continuing interest in exploring this aspect of cosmology, in collaboration with other groups at ETH.

Major external activities 1991-1994 Member, Hubble Space Telescope Users' Committee (NASA)

1992-1996 Member, Gemini International Science Committee

1994-1997 Director-at-Large, AURA

1994-1996 Member, CSA Joint Subcommittee on Space Astronomy

1995-1997 Member, Advisory Board, NRC Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics

1998-2001 Canadian Project Scientist and member, Science Working Group, NASA/CSA Next Generation Space Telescope

1999-2001 Member, CFHT Scientific Advisory Council

2000-2002 Member, Gemini International Board of Directors

2000-2002 Member, ALMA International Co-ordinating Committee

2002-2006 Member, ESO Scientific and Technical Committee

2002-present Interdisciplinary Scientist and member of the Flight Science Working Group, NASA/ESA James Webb Space Telescope

2003-2006 President, IAU Commission #47 Cosmology

2004-2007 Member, ESA Astronomy Working Group

2005-2007 Coordinator of the "Roadmap for Astronomy in Switzerland 2007-2016"

2008-2011 Member of the ESA Euclid Science Study Team

2008-present Member, ERC Advanced Grants Panel

2003, 2008 Panel Chair, Hubble Space Telescope Time Allocation Committee (NASA)

2009-present, Member Swiss National Research Council (DIV II)

2010 Member, ESO Visiting Committee

2010 Panel Chair, ESO Observing Programs Committee

2009-2011 Member, ESA Space Science Advisory Committee

Awards 2000 - R & B Sackler Lecturer, Leiden University

1997 - 2002 Fellow, Canadian Inst. for Adv. Res.

1996 R & B Sackler Distinguished Visiting Astronomer, Cambridge

1996 - 1997 Visiting Fellow, Clare Hall College, Cambridge

2014 Elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS)

Publications ADS published papers

Please click here to download the entire bibliography in pdf

Involvement in Instrumentation I am involved in several instrumentation projects, including the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), for which I am one of the six Interdisciplinary Scientists and also a member of the NIRCAM and MIRI Instrument Science Team and MUSE, a proposed 2nd-generation integral field spectrograph for the ESO VLT.

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