Schedule Jan 17, 2009
What the Antennae Has Taught Us About Star Clusters
Brad Whitmore (STScI)

The Antennae galaxy has played an important role in the field of star cluster research over the past two decades. For example, observations of compact massive star clusters in this prototypical merger helped establish the idea that young globular clusters are still being formed in the local universe. The demonstration that the luminosity and mass functions are power laws with index approximately -2 provided evidence that the clusters progenitors are giant molecular clouds, and also challenged us to determine how this power law can evolve into the peaked distribution found for old globular clusters. More recently, an examination of the age distribution of the clusters led to the realization that destruction mechanisms, especially "infant mortality", play the dominant role in determining the demographics of clusters. Perhaps most importantly, a comparison with other galaxies has shown that the Antennae is not unique; the same processes and demographics are present in many, and possibly all star-forming galaxies. This led us to the development of a general framework for understanding the demographics of star clusters, and an empirical Monte-Carlo model which allows us to test the degree of universality.

Author entry (protected)