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Session 89 - Starburst Galaxies.
Oral session, Wednesday, January 15
I present the results of a research program seeking to characterize the impact of massive starclusters on the chemical and dynamical evolution of metal-poor, irregular and blue compact galaxies. The evolution of high mass stars is thought to contribute the bulk of heavy element enrichment in the interstellar medium, especially \alpha-process elements like O, Si, etc. Yet, in actively star-forming galaxies, localized chemical inhomogeneities are seldom observed. Spatially-resolved optical and ultraviolet spectroscopy from the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories is used to search for chemical enrichment in the vicinity of young star clusters in nearby galaxies. VLA aperture synthesis maps are used to examine the neutral hydrogen content, dynamics, and local environment of the sample galaxies. Despite the spread in evolutionary state of the starbursts determined by the EW of Balmer emission lines and the radio continuum spectral index, few instances of localized enrichment are found. In light of these data, the ``instantaneous enrichment'' scenario for extragalactic HII regions appears less probable than one which operates on long timescales and global spatial scales. The results are consistent with the idea that starburst driven winds expel freshly synthesized metals in a hot 10^6 K phase into the halos of galaxies where they cool, condense into globules, and mix homogeneously with the rest of the galaxy on long (dynamical) timescales. The C/O and N/O ratios of the galaxies are used as new tools for measuring the recent star formation history. Implications for chemical evolution of galaxies both locally and cosmologically are developed.
Program listing for Wednesday