Galaxy evolution at high-redshift: Millimeter-wavelength surveys with the AzTEC camera
Galaxies detected by their thermal dust emission at submillimeter (submm) and millimeter (mm) wavelengths comprise a population of massive, intensely star-forming systems in the early Universe. These "submm/mm-galaxies", or SMGs, likely represent an important phase in the assembly and/or evolution of massive galaxies and are thought to be the progenitors of massive elliptical galaxies. While their projected number density as a function of source brightness provides key constraints on models of galaxy evolution, SMG surveys carried out over the past twelve years with the first generation of submm/mm-wavelength cameras have not imaged a large enough area to sufficient depths to provide the statistical power needed to discriminate between competing galaxy evolution scenarios. In this dissertation, we present the results from SMG surveys carried out over the past four years using the new sensitive mm-wavelength camera AzTEC. With the improved mapping speed of the AzTEC camera combined with dedicated telescope time devoted to deep, large-area extragalactic surveys, we have tripled both the area surveyed towards blank-fields (that is, regions with no known galaxy over-densities) at submm/mm wavelengths and the total number of detected SMGs. Here, we describe the properties and performance of the AzTEC instrument while operating on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) and the Atacama Submillimeter Telescope Experiment (ASTE). We then present the results from two of the blank-field regions imaged with AzTEC: the JCMT/COSMOS field, which we discovered is over-dense in the number of very bright SMGs, and the ASTE survey of the Great Observatories Origins Deep-South field, which represents one of the deepest surveys ever carried out at submm/mm wavelengths. Finally, we combine the results from all of the blank-fields imaged with AzTEC while operating on the JCMT and the ASTE to calculate the most accurate measurements to date of the SMG number counts.