Review article in press for Astrophysics Update Vol. 2
For a PDF version of the article, click
For a PDF version of the article, click here.
Abstract. The study of colliding galaxies has progressed rapidly in the last few years, driven by observations with powerful new ground and space-based instruments. These instruments have used for detailed studies of specific nearby systems, statistical studies of large samples of relatively nearby systems, and increasingly large samples of high redshift systems. Following a brief summary of the historical context, this review attempts to integrate these studies to address the following key issues. What role do collisions play in galaxy evolution, and how can recently discovered processes like downsizing resolve some apparently contradictory results of high redshift studies? What is the role of environment in galaxy collisions? How is star formation and nuclear activity orchestrated by the large scale dynamics, before and during merger? Are novel modes of star formation involved? What are we to make of the association of ultraluminous X-ray sources with colliding galaxies? To what degree do mergers and feedback trigger long-term secular effects? How far can we push the archaeology of individual systems to determine the nature of precursor systems and the precise effect of the interaction? Tentative answers to many of these questions have been suggested, and the prospects for answering most of them in the next few decades are good.
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