AAS 203rd Meeting, January 2004
Session 126 The Antennae Galaxies: The Nearest Example of High Z Galaxy Interaction
Special Session, Thursday, January 8, 2004, 10:00-11:30am, Regency VII

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[126.02] Stellar Populations in the Antennae

B. Whitmore (STScI)

The Antennae Galaxies (NGC 4038/39) are the nearest and youngest galaxies in the famous Toomre sequence of merging galaxies. As such, they may represent out best chance for understanding how interactions affect the structure, kinematics, and stellar makeup of galaxies. One surprise has been the discovery of young massive star clusters, the so called "super star clusters" in these galaxies. The brightest of these clusters have all the attributes expected of young globular clusters, hence providing us with the unexpected, but very welcome opportunity to study the formation of globular clusters in the local universe rather than trying to figure out how they formed some 12 billion years ago. Several generations of young star clusters have been identified in the Antennae galaxies, based on a combination of our HST observations (UBVI and Halpha) and a wide assortment of other observations that have recently become available (e.g., radio continuum, CO, IR, UV, X-ray). We will report on our project to use these population subsamples to study the formation and evolution of candidate globular clusters, from very red clusters that are still embedded in their dust cocoons (\lesssim 1 Myr), to a population of clusters which formed during the initial encounter that produced the tidal tails (500 Myr), to old globular clusters that existed in the galaxies before the merger (~12 Gyr).

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35#5
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.