The young star cluster perspective of star formation

Star formation is one of the fundamental process contributing to galaxy evolution and therefore in shaping the Universe. Yet it is extremely challenging to build a complete view of this process and its interplay with galactic scale properties. The most challenging aspect is to reconcile physical mechanisms, which operate at the smallest spatial scales (i.e. the size of our solar system) all the way up to galactic scale features such as the large star-forming complexes.

Two teams lead by Angela Adamo have now succeeded in putting forward two different observational projects that aim at understanding the nature of star formation at parsec scales and probe the link between these small scales and the host galactic environment. The projects are based on two recently accepted proposals at two world-class telescopes, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) by Nasa and ESA, and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) by ESO.

The Hi-PEEC (Hubble imaging probe of extreme environments and clusters) project will use the new observations to look at the closest analogs of the high-redshift starburst galaxies. Galaxies today still carry with them witnesses of those experienced starburst periods, i.e. their globular cluster populations. We want to understand how these ancient populations formed and whether local galaxies can still experience star formation in a similar fashion as at high redshift. The Hi-PEEC team includes 20 astronomers (including OKC members: Göran östlin, Matthew Hayes, Matteo Messa, and Johannes Pushing) from 6 countries.

Fig.1. The Hi-PEEC sample in HST optical archival data. The new observations will  provide ultraviolet and optical information which will allow a detailed study of the young star cluster populations that are forming in these starbursts. The aim is to understand how these clusters form and whether they share properties of the ancient globular cluster populations.
Fig.1. The Hi-PEEC sample in HST optical archival data. The new observations will provide ultraviolet and optical information which will allow a detailed study of the young star cluster populations that are forming in these starbursts. The aim is to understand how these clusters form and whether they share properties of the ancient globular cluster populations.

The second project, based on VLT observations, consists of 21 hours to sample the nearby spiral galaxy Messier 83 (M83) with the integral field spectrograph unit (IFU) MUSE. MUSE is one of ESO’s newest instruments and it is the largest IFU currently available. The observations are organised such to produce a unique mosaic of the M83 spiral system. We will be able to study the effect of stellar cluster feedback on the interstellar medium of the galaxy from the smallest local scales achievable to date with optical spectroscopy to galactic scales. M83 has a very compelling collection of different environments characterised by different star formation properties. The centre of the galaxy is

Fig.2. The contours of the MUSE mosaic are overlaid on a visual band image of the spiral galaxy Messier 83. This unique dataset will be used to understand the interplay between cluster feedback and the ISM conditions.
Fig.2. The contours of the MUSE mosaic are overlaid on a visual band image of the spiral galaxy Messier 83. This unique dataset will be used to understand the interplay between cluster feedback and the ISM conditions.

perturbed by an ongoing starburst. The inter arm regions have very low starformation, conditions which are typical of the lowest efficient star-froming galaxies in the local universe. Finally, the star formation in the arm is typical of local star-forming spirals. The M83 dataset will be a key factor in our understanding of the effect of star formation feedback from local to galactic environments. The team responsible of this dataset counts 18 members (together with OKC members Göran Östlin, Arjan Bik and Matteo Messa) from 11 different institutes in Europe.

– Angela Adamo (adamo@astro.su.se)

Angela Adamo is a postdoc fellow at the Astronomy department at Stockholm University and a member of the Oscar Klein Centre since 2014. She is part of the Galaxy group, lead by Prof. Göran Östlin. Her main research aims at understanding star formation in the framework of galaxy evolution.

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