AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 40. Extragalactic Star Clusters: From Ancient Globulars to Young Star Clusters
Topical, Oral, Tuesday, June 1, 1999, 8:30-10:00am, 10:45am-12:30pm, 2:30-4:00pm, 4:15-6:00pm, Continental Ballroom A

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[40.14] Theory of Globular Cluster Formation

D.E. McLaughlin (UC Berkeley)

Many theories of globular cluster formation have treated these objects, at least implicitly, as the products of a special process or a restrictive set of initial conditions that held specifically in pregalactic or protogalactic environments. However, recent evidence is that current star formation, in environments ranging from the disk of the Milky Way to starbursts and galaxy mergers, occurs largely in groups. This prevalence of a 'clustered' mode of star formation suggests that the old globular clusters, as well as younger 'super' star clusters, may exemplify what is in fact a fundamental element of star formation at any epoch. If so, then what understanding we have of star formation today should inform theories of globular cluster formation; and there should be much to learn about generic star formation, as well as galaxy formation, from the study of globular clusters.

This talk will discuss the conceptual links between the formation of stars, globular clusters, and entire galaxies that are emerging from the study of globular cluster systems in galaxies. In particular, recent theoretical and empirical work concerning (1) the frequency distribution of globular cluster masses in galaxies (the GCLF), and (2) the total populations and spatial structures of globular cluster systems (specific frequencies and radial distributions), will be reviewed in this light. The role that these results should play in constructing a general theory for the formation of any star cluster will be stressed. The importance of local and global galactic environment, and of the inevitable star-gas interactions (feedback) on both small and large scales, will be discussed.

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