Project Title: The Star Formation Reference Survey
Project Advisor: Dr. Matthew L. N. Ashby
Background: Star formation has been the most
important single physical process since recombination. It is fundamental to galaxy
formation and evolution. Not only have stars created most of the luminous energy
in the universe, they have produced the heavy elements needed for planets and life.
Star formation has naturally been the subject of intense study, leading, for example,
to our current understanding of the star formation history of the universe
(eg., Lilly etal 1996, Hopkins Beacom 1996, Madau etal 1998) and the discovery
of the Schmidt Law (Schmidt 1959 updated by Kennicutt etal 1998) relating galaxies
star formation rate (SFR) to the local gas surface density.
Despite these advances, there are gaps in our understanding. A general inadequacy
of existing work in this field is the lack of a self-consistent treatment/measurement
of SFR across the full SEDs of galaxies. This is what our Reference Survey aims to
provide. Doing so will help us to better understand 1) the meaning of various SF
metrics in relation to fundamental galaxy parameters, 2) the prevalence of active
galactic nuclei (AGN) within SF galaxies and AGN/SF interplay, and 3) all manifestations
of SF in the local universe, which in turn will serve as systematic benchmarks for
SF in the distant universe.
Scientific Methodology: Dr. Ashby is
leading an international team of astronomers now engaged in gathering and analyzing
panchromatic data for a representative sample of about 400 star-forming galaxies
in the local universe. The sample has been carefully constructed so that it contains
all existing modes of star formation known to exist in the local universe.
Specifically, it spans seven decades in luminosity, a factor of 200 in star forming
intensity, and the entire range of galaxy mass and dust temperature.
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