On the origin and evolution of blue compact galaxies

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: This thesis is focused on the origin and evolution of blue compact galaxies (BCGs). BCGs are low mass galaxies characterised by blue colours, low chemical abundances and high star formation rates. The gas consumtion time scale is considerable shorter than the age of the universe and thus the high star formation rate must be transient. Such a non sustainable star formation rate is commonly referred to as a "starburst". It has been proposed that BCGs are genuinely young galaxies or alternatively that theyoccasionally undergo starbursts, separated by long quiesent periods. It is of importance for the understanding of the evolution of galaxies, and in particular dwarf galaxies, to understand under what conditions a galaxy can become a starbursting BCG.The properties of in particular intrinsically luminous BCGs have been examined photometrically and kinematically. The results show that the studied galaxies have a population of old stars underlying the luminous starbursts. Thus they are not young galaxies. It is shown that infrared photometry is a powerful method to detect underlying old populations in BCGs. Kinematical studies of the velocity field suggests that the galaxies have been perturbed by mergers, and it is proposed that mergers betweengas rich dwarf galaxies is the triggering mechanism for starbursts in luminous BCGs. Low surface brightness galaxies are promising ingredients in such mergers.Observations with the Hubble Space Telescope of the BCG ESO 338- IG04 reveal the presence of a very rich population of globular clusters (GCs) of various ages. Apparently GC formation is still going on in this starbursting galaxy. The age dating of GCs offers an efficient way of studying the starburst history of BCGs and galaxies in general. The relation between BCGs and other types of low mass galaxies is discussed.

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