Published in The seventh astrophysical conference: Star formation, near and far. AIP Conference Proceedings, Volume 393, pp. 259-270 (1997).
astro-ph/9701130

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MERGERS, INTERACTIONS, AND THE FUELING OF STARBURSTS

J. E. Hibbard


Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii


Abstract: The most active starbursts are found in galaxies with the highest IR luminosities, with peak star formation rates and efficiencies that are over an order of magnitude higher than in normal disk systems. These systems are almost exclusively on-going mergers. In this review I explore the conditions needed for interactions to experience such a phase by comparing two systems at similar stages of merging but quite different IR luminosities: NGC 4038/9 and Arp 299. These observations show that the most intense starbursts occur at the sites with the highest gas densities, which is a general result for IR luminous mergers. Observations and theory both suggest that the strength of the merger induced starburst depends on the internal structure of the progenitors, the amount and distribution of the gas, and the violence of the interaction. In particular, interactions involving progenitors with dense bulges, gas-rich disks, and/or a retrograde spin are expected to preferentially lead to large amounts of gaseous dissipation, although the interplay between these parameters is unknown. A major outstanding question is how the effects of feedback alter these conclusions.


Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION

QUANTIFYING THE ACTIVITY

THE TAILS OF TWO MERGERS

LESSONS FROM SIMULATIONS

OTHER ASPECTS

OUTSTANDING QUESTIONS

REFERENCES

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