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Session 69 - Starburst Galaxies.
Display session, Thursday, June 11
We have obtained long-slit spectroscopy with the Kitt Peak 2.1-meter telescope of the interacting galaxies NGC 3991, NGC 3994 and NGC 3995 to study how star formation propagates in tidally disturbed systems. UBVR imaging of these galaxies has shown they contain bright, blue star-forming knots, with a range of ages and reddening. Our apertures were chosen to examine a number of these knots in various galaxy environments. Preliminary analysis of the spectra reveals evidence for population differences through a variety of emission and absorption features of varying strengths. The strength of the nebular emission lines confirms that many regions are undergoing high rates of star formation.
These data will used to determine the age of each knot as a function of location in the galaxy, to address a series of questions. Does the star formation occur first in the nucleus or outer regions of the galaxies? Are there differences in the stellar populations of the star forming regions related to the local gas density, disk dynamics, or other environmental factors? Does star formation triggered by galaxy interactions produce an initial mass function biased toward massive stars? These results are part of an ongoing study of star formation in interacting galaxies that will include HST imaging and spectroscopy with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph.
This research has been supported in part by NASA, under contract NAS5-31231.
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