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Clustering of stars in nearby galaxies: probing the range of stellar structures

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Most stars form in groups, and these clusters are themselves nestled within larger associations and stellar complexes. It is not yet clear, however, whether stars cluster on preferred size scales within galaxies, or if stellar groupings have a continuous size

Most stars form in groups, and these clusters are themselves nestled within larger associations and stellar complexes. It is not yet clear, however, whether stars cluster on preferred size scales within galaxies, or if stellar groupings have a continuous size distribution. I have developed two methods to select stellar groupings across a wide range of size-scales in order to assess trends in the size distribution and other basic properties of stellar groupings. The first method uses visual inspection of color-magnitude and color-color diagrams of clustered stars to assess whether the compact sources within the potential association are coeval, and thus likely to be born from the same parentmolecular cloud. This method was developed using the stellar associations in the M51/NGC 5195 interacting galaxy system. This process is highly effective at selecting single-aged stellar associations, but in order to assess properties of stellar clustering in a larger sample of nearby galaxies, an automated method for selecting stellar groupings is needed. I have developed an automated stellar grouping selection method that is sensitive to stellar clustering on all size scales. Using the Source Extractor software package on Gaussian-blurred images of NGC 4214, and the annular surface brightness to determine the characteristic size of each cluster/association, I eliminate much of the size and density biases intrinsic to other methods. This automated method was tested in the nearby dwarf irregular galaxy NGC 4214, and can detect stellar groupings with sizes ranging from compact clusters to stellar complexes. In future work, the automatic selection method developed in this dissertation will be used to identify stellar groupings in a set of nearby galaxies to determine if the size scales for stellar clustering are uniform in the nearby universe or if it is dependent on local galactic environment. Once the stellar clusters and associations have been identified and age-dated, this information can be used to deduce disruption times from the age distribution as a function of the position of the stellar grouping within the galaxy, the size of the cluster or association, and the morphological type of the galaxy. The implications of these results for galaxy formation and evolution are discussed.

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Date Created
2011

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Galaxy evolution with hybrid methods

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I combine, compare, and contrast the results from two different numerical techniques (grid vs. particle methods) studying multi-scale processes in galaxy and structure formation. I produce a method for recreating identical initial conditions for one method from those of the

I combine, compare, and contrast the results from two different numerical techniques (grid vs. particle methods) studying multi-scale processes in galaxy and structure formation. I produce a method for recreating identical initial conditions for one method from those of the other, and explore methodologies necessary for making these two methods as consistent as possible. With this, I first study the impact of streaming velocities of baryons with respect to dark matter, present at the epoch of reionization, on the ability for small halos to accrete gas at high redshift. With the inclusion of this stream velocity, I find the central density profile of halos is reduced, overall gas condensation is delayed, and infer a delay in the inevitable creation of stars.

I then combine the two numerical methods to study starburst outflows as they interact with satellite halos. This process leads to shocks catalyzing the formation of molecular coolants that lead to bursts in star formation, a process that is better captured in grid methods. The resultant clumps of stars are removed from their initial dark matter halo, resemble precursors to modern-day globular clusters, and their formation may be observable with upcoming telescopes.

Finally, I perform two simulation suites, comparing each numerical method's ability to model the impact of energetic feedback from accreting black holes at the core of giant clusters. With these comparisons I show that black hole feedback can maintain a hot diffuse medium while limiting the amount of gas that can condense into the interstellar medium, reducing the central star formation by up to an order of magnitude.

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Date Created
2014