In 1978, Larson & Tinsley first recognized that star formation
triggered by galaxy-galaxy interactions is a basic ingradient of
galaxy formation and evolution. Numerous observational studies at
low and high redshift support and refine these initial results.
In the 1990's, Mihos and Hernquist developed a theoretical picture
of star formation triggered by gravitational interactions among close
pairs of galaxies. During a close pass, tides drive molecular gas to
the centers of each galaxy and trigger a burst of star formation. As
the galaxies move apart, the burst continues and declines in intensity.
I work with Betsy Barton
on tests of this picture. Using data from the CfA Redshift Survey,
we were the first to show that several indicators of star formation are
inversely correlated with the projected separation of the pair (as
expected: closer pairs should have more star formation). You can read
about these results here.
In two other papers, we used optical data
infrared data to constrain burst properties and to compare these close
pairs with ultraluminous infrared galaxies.