# MODULI SPACES OF CURVES

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1 MODULI SPACES OF CURVES SCOTT NOLLET Abstract. My goal is to introduce vocabulary and present examples that will help graduate students to better follow lectures at TAGS Assuming some background in modern algebraic geometry (varieties, schemes and cohomology), I will discuss linear systems on curves, Hilbert schemes, and the Mumford-Deligne moduli space of isomorphism classes of curves of fixed genus. 1. Linear systems on curves In this section we establish the curves to be studied, the notion of linear system, and the Riemann-Roch theorem and some of its applications. We work throughout over a fixed algebraically closed field k of arbitrary characterstic Curves. We first clarify our main object of study: Definition 1.1. An embedded curve C P n k is a nonsingular one dimensional closed subvariety [4, I, 5]. Letting P C (t) = dt+a be the Hilbert polynomial, the geometric genus of C is g = 1 a and the degree is d = deg C. An abstract curve C is a one dimensional nonsingular complete variety of finite type over k [4, IV, 1]. Letting ω C be the sheaf of differentials 1 [4, II, 8], the geometric genus of C is g = dim H 0 (ω C ) = dim H 1 (O C ). If k = C, then g is the number of handles on the corresponding real surface. Remark 1.2. An embedded curve C P n yields C = Proj k[x 0,..., x n ]/I C as an abstract curve, but the embedded curve has extra data such as the ideal I C and the degree deg C. Remark 1.3. One can also define an abstract curve as the set of all discrete valuation rings k R K, where k K has transcendence degree one [4, I, 6]. Example 1.4. A general hypersurface C P 2 of degree d is a curve with g = ( ) d 1 2. Example 1.5. [4, III,Exercise 5.6] For a, b > 0, general effective divisors on the nonsingular quadric Q P 3 of type O Q (a, b) are curves C with g = (a 1)(b 1) and deg C = a+b. Taking a = 2, b 1 gives curves of every genus g Linear systems. Any map f : C P n gives rise to a line bundle L = f O P n(1) and sections s i = f x i which generate L in the sense that O n+1 s i C L is surjective. L Pic C { } {f : C P n } s 0,..., s n H 0 (C, L) L Pic C V = s s i generate L 0,..., s n H 0 (C, L) 1 Namely ω C = (I/I 2 ), where I is the ideal of in C C. We use K C for the associated divisor. 1

2 2 SCOTT NOLLET Geometrically a hyperplane H with equation a i x i pulls back to the zero set of the section s = a i s i, denoted (s) 0 : dualize the injection s : O C L to get L O C as the ideal sheaf of the effective divisor D = (s) 0 = n i p i of degree deg D = n i. These are determined by s up to λ k, so the set of all such is given by the projective space PV = V {0}/. This is a linear system of dimension r = dim V 1 and degree d = deg L, denoted g r d. Example 1.6. (a) Take C = P 1, L = O P 1(3) and V = H 0 (P 1, L). For homogeneous coordinates s, t on P 1 and V = s 3, s 2 t, st 2, t 3, the associated map P 1 P 3 is given by (s, t) (x, y, z, w) = (s 3, s 2 t, st 2, t 3 ). The image C has ideal I C = (xz y 2, xw yz, yw z 2 ). Modulo Aut P 3, every curve of degree d = 3 and genus g = 0 arises from this construction [4, II,Example 7.8.5] and is called a twisted cubic curve. Two more linear systems are present. Note that C Q is a divisor of type (2, 1), so there are two projections to P 1 via the isomorphism Q = P 1 P 1 : (b) π 1 is an isomorphism giving a g 1 1. A curve C carries a g 1 1 C = P 1 (c) π 2 is a double cover giving a g 1 2. Exercise 1.7. In Example 1.6 (c), compute V H 0 (O P 1(2)). Remark 1.8. A curve C carrying a g 1 2 is a double cover of P 1 and is called hyperelliptic Riemann-Roch. The Riemann Roch theorem estimates the dimension l(d) of the complete linear system D associated to a divisor D = n i p i. If H 0 (C, O C (D)) = 0, then there are no effective divisors linearly equivalent to D, so we take l(d) = 1. Theorem 1.9. If D is a divisor on C, then l(d) l(k C D) = deg D + 1 g. Corollary deg K C = 2g 2. [Take D = K C so that l(k C ) = g 1 and l(0) = 0.] Corollary If deg D > 2g 2, then l(d) = deg D g. [Because l(k C D) = 1.] Remark In terms of the map, we observe the following [4, IV,Proposition 3.1]. (a) P C is a base point for D iff the map D P D given by A A + P is not onto, hence D is base point free iff l(d P ) = l(d) 1 for each P. (b) Similarly D separates points and tangent vectors iff l(d P Q) = l(d) 2 for each P, Q C, including the case P = Q. Corollary If d = deg D 2g + 1, then D gives a closed immersion C P d g. Proof. For P, Q C, D, D P and D P Q are nonspecial, so apply Corollary Example Three points on an elliptic curve C give a closed immersion C P 2.

3 MODULI SPACES OF CURVES 3 2. Hilbert schemes A flat family in P n consists of a closed immersion X P n T with composite map f : X T flat, meaning that for each x X with t = f(x), the map O T,t f O X,x is a flat homomorphism of local rings. The following shows that flatness is the right notion: Theorem 2.1. If T is connected and X P n T, then X T is flat if and only if the fibers X t have constant Hilbert polynomial. Example 2.2. If C P n is a curve and V H 0 (C, L) gives the linear system PV, then the total family D C PV P n PV with fibers D s = (s) 0 is a flat family. The amazing thing is that there is a scheme that captures all such flat families at once. Grothendieck showed [1] that all flat families with fixed Hilbert polynomial p(t) Q[t] are captured by one universal flat family in the following theorem. Theorem 2.3. There is a scheme Hilb n p(m) and flat family (1) X P n Hilb n p(m) such that for each flat family (2) C P n T T with fibers having Hilbert polynomial p(t), (2) arises from (1) as a pullback from a unique map T Hilb n p(m). Remark 2.4. The Hilbert schemes Hilb n p(t) have been both objects of study and a useful tool since since their arrival in A few comments about their nature: (a) Grothendieck proved that Hilb n p(t) is projective over Spec Z, so every flat family is encoded by a projective scheme with integer coefficients. (b) Over a field k, Hartshorne showed [3] that Hilb n p(t) is connected for each p(t), but examples show it can have many irreducible components. (c) The universal property implies that Hilb n p(t) is unique up to unique isomorphism. (d) Taking T = Spec k shows that there is a bijection {Points of Hilb n p(t)} {Closed subschemes X P n with Hilbert polynomial p(t)} Exercise 2.5. Prove that Hilb n 1 = P n with universal family X = (P n ) P n P n. Notation 2.6. For degree d and genus g, we write Hilb n d,g = Hilb n dm+1 g. Example 2.7. The twisted cubic curve C ( P 3 has ideal) I = (y 2 xz, xw yz, yw z 2 ) z y x generated by the maximal minors of M =. The Hilbert-Burch theorem w z y gives a free resolution 0 S( 3) 2 M S( 2) 3 I C 0. We vary entries of M to give flat families of curves parametrized by t A 1 and evaluate the limiting curve as t 0. ( ) z y x (a) M t = I w zt y C0 = (wy, xw yz, y 2 ), so C 0 is the union of x = y = 0 and doubling ( of w ) = y = 0 on Q. z y xt (b) M t = I w z y C0 = (wy z 2, zy, y 2 ), a triple line on the quadric cone. ( ) z y xt (c) M t = I wt z y C0 = (z 2, zy, y 2 ) = (x, y) 2, the thick triple line. (d) Projection from a point gives a nodal plane cubic with a spatial embedded point at the node [4, III,Ex ] (see also [7]).

4 4 SCOTT NOLLET Example 2.8. Work of Piene and Schlessinger [7] describes Hilb 3 3,0. It has two irreducible components: (a) the 12-dimensional closure of the family of twisted cubic curves and (b) the 15-dimensional family whose general member is the union of a plane cubic and an isolated point. They meet transversely in an irreducible subvariety of dimension The moduli space M g of curves of genus g 2 We construct a scheme M g whose closed points are in bijective correspondence with isomorphism classes of curves of genus g. Example 3.1. If g = 0, then applying Corollary 1.13 to D = P C gives a closed immersion C P 1 which must be an isomorphism, so M 0 is a point. Example 3.2. The j-invariant shows that M 1 = A 1. In view of Examples 3.1 and 3.2 we assume g 2. We need a way to produce all the curves and recognize isomorphism classes. This is provided by the following: Observations 3.3. Let C be a curve of genus g 2. (a) Fix n 3. Then the n-canonical complete linear system nk C gives a closed embedding C P N by Corollary 1.13, with N = n(2g 2) g = (2n 1)(g 1) 1. The image is an n-canonical curve of degree d = n(2g 2) and genus g. (b) If j : C P N is an n-canonical embedding and Ψ Aut P N, then Ψ j is also an n-canonical embedding. (c) If ϕ : C C is an isomorphism, then the composite C C P N is also an n-canonical embedding because ϕ K C = K C. It follows that each isomorphism class of genus g curves appears a single Aut P N -orbit. Taking G = Aut P N = PGL(N + 1), this leads to the following. Construction 3.4. Let U Hilb N n(2g 2),g be the open subset of smooth connected curves and K U the subset of n-canonical curves. Then G acts on K and the set K/G of G-orbits is in bijective correspondence with isomorphism classes of genus g curves Geometric Invariant theory. Given a group G acting on a variety X, geometric invariant theory [5] establishes conditions under which the orbit space X/G exists as the points of an algebraic variety. Here are a summary of some results from this area. Below we take G to be a reductive group, of which G = PGL(N + 1) is an example Affine case. If X = Spec A is affine, things work out well: the action of G on X induces an action G A A, when we can define A G = {a A : ga = a g G} and the map φ : Spec A Y = Spec A G does the job. In particular, for any open U Y for which the G-orbits in φ 1 (U) are closed, then U = φ 1 (U)/G is the space of orbits Projective case. If X = Proj R where R is graded, things are more difficult.

5 MODULI SPACES OF CURVES GIT Semistability. Assuming that G acts on X linearly, meaning through the action of the general linear group on R 1, one can again form the G-invariant subring R G R and the map π : X Y = Proj R G = X//G, but typically π will not be defined for all x X, so we define the semistable locus X ss X to be the open set where it is defined. Concretely x X is semistable if there is some f R G with x X f, otherwise x is nonstable. Then we get a morphism X ss X//G GIT stability. Unfortunately when we use semistable points as above, the morphism might collapse distinct orbits together in X//G. To remedy this situation, we define x X ss to be stable if each orbit Gx is closed in X ss and dim Gx = dim G (in other words, Stab(x) < ). If X s X ss is the subset of stable points, then π : X s X//G separates the orbits and X s π(x s ) is the orbit space we are seeking. The condition Stab(x) < says that Aut C < for the corresponding curve C. For a curve C of genus g, note the following: (1) g 2 Aut C < [4, IV, Exercise 2.5]. (2) If g = 1, only finitely many automorphisms fix P C [4, IV, Proposition 4.7]. (3) If g = 0, automorphisms are determined by three points [4, I, Exercise 6.6]. With this in mind, we describe two types of nodal curves that also have finite automorphism groups, these are the Deligne-Mumford-stable curves: (a) the curves C such that every smooth rational component meets the other components in at least 3 points. (b) the curve C such that every rational component of the normalization of C has at least 3 points lying over the singular points of C. Finally we can state the main result. We have defined K U Hilb above. Enlarge K to K by adding the curves of types (a) and (b) shown above and let K ss = K Hilb ss. Theorem 3.5. Assume n 5 in the construction above. (1) K ss is a smooth closed subscheme of Hilb. (2) K ss = K s : these curves are already GIT stable. (3) K ss = K. In particular, Kss /G is a projective variety containing K/G as a dense open subset. References [1] A. Grothendieck, Techniques de construction et théorèmes d existence en géometrie algébrique, IV: Les schémas de Hilbert, in Sem. Bourbaki, , Exposé 221, Benjamin, [2] J. Harris and I. Morrison, Moduli of Curves, GTM 187, Spring-Verlag, [3] R. Hartshorne, Connectedness of the Hilbert scheme, Inst. Hautes Études Sci. Publ. Math. 29 (1966) [4] R. Hartshorne, Algebraic Geometry, GTM 52, Springer-Verlag, [5] J. Fogarty, F. Kirwan and D. Mumford, Geometric invariant theory, Ergebnisse der Mathematik und ihrer Grenzgebeite 34, Folge 3, third edition, Springer-Verlag, [6] P. Newstead, Introduction to moduli problems and orbit spaces, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Lectures on Mathematics and Physics, 51, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay; by the Narosa Publishing House, New Delhi, 1978.

6 6 SCOTT NOLLET [7] R. Piene and Schlessinger, On the Hilbert scheme compactification of the space of twisted cubics, Amer. J. Math. 107 (1985)

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