ABSTRACT. Unless the nearby universe is subtly anomalous, it should contain a relatively normal selection of galaxies whose histories are representative of field galaxies in general throughout the Universe. We can therefore take advantage of our ability to resolve the nearby galaxies into individual stars to directly, and accurately, measure star formation histories. The star formation histories are determined from model-fitting analysis, based on stellar evolution tracks, of colour-magnitude diagrams. The most accurate information on star formation rates extending back to the earliest epoches can be obtained from the structure of the main sequence. However, the oldest main sequence turnoffs are very faint, and it is often necessary to use the more evolved stars to infer the star formation history. These can then be compared with the properties of galaxies seen over a large range of lookback times at moderate to high redshifts. There is considerable evidence that the faint blue galaxies seen in large numbers in cosmological redshift surveys are the progenitors of the small late-type irregular galaxies seen in copious numbers in the Local Group, and we concentrate on these here.
Keywords: galaxy evolution; dwarf galaxies; colour-magnitude diagrams; stellar populations; star formation
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