Time: 2:30 pm
Location: ABB 102
Guest: Dr. Christine Wilson
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Title: What drives the high star formation rates in galaxy mergers?
Many galaxy mergers are characterized by star formation rates up to 100 times higher than that of our own Milky Way galaxy. In addition, galaxy mergers convert all their gas into stars in less than 100 million years, while the Milky Way would take 2 billion years to deplete its gas. The extreme properties seen in galaxy mergers are likely driven by changes in the structure of the molecular gas, which provides the fuel for star formation. In this talk, I will compare recent observations of two nearby mergers on cloud scales (150 light years) with similar observations for 70 normal galaxies. I will discuss how comparing the two merger systems with each other, along with an analysis of galaxy mergers from the numerical simulations, can provide insight into how cloud properties and their associated star formation can evolve with the merger phase. I will end by highlighting some potential difficulties in linking “instantaneous” cloud properties with star formation rates averaged over 10 million years in these rapidly evolving mergers.