Starburst and Galaxy Evolution

Stars are the fundamental building blocks of galaxies. Stars evolve - and so do galaxies. Comparison between observations and models of evolving stellar populations helps understand the star formation process, triggering mechanisms, influence of the environment, the chemical history, and processes in the interstellar gas.

Our research concentrates on galaxies with active current star formation. Many of these objects show signatures of violent high-mass star formation, a phenomenon often called `starburst'. Scaled-down versions of starbursts are found in the Local Group of galaxies, like 30 Doradus in the LMC, but prototypical starbursts are farther away. Some of our favorite objects are NGC 1569 at 2.5 Mpc, NGC 1741 or NGC 3690/IC 694 at 50 Mpc. We are quite excited about the recent detection of star-forming galaxy candidates at cosmological distances.

Most of our data are taken by HST, which is the premier instrument to collect observations at high spatial resolution, in particular in the ultraviolet. However, many starbursts are dusty. The effects of dust on the emitted stellar light are another centerpiece of our work. Infrared observations are collected in Hawaii, and in the future with HST. Observations from KPNO, CTIO, ESO, and La Palma complete the spectral coverage.

We try to reproduce the observed galaxy properties with our evolutionary synthesis models. These models are available to the community as well. So far, we have mostly concentrated on the ultraviolet spectral region (including the ionizing continuum) and have optimized our models for evolutionary phases dominated by O and WR-stars. We are now extending our models to low stellar temperatures in order to be able to study galaxies whose light is dominated by cool giants and supergiants.

Our homepage is intended to give you an overview of our work, let you access our models and recent publications, and to encourage you to contact us if you have questions or requests related to our research. Pointers to other related models are also given.

Last update: September 30, 2008 - Claus Leitherer