Star Formation and feedback at key physical scales for galaxy evolution

Abstract: Feedback from young, massive stars plays an essential role in the self-regulation of star formation in galaxies, and in shaping the galaxies' global properties. This phenomenon originates at small scales, surrounding the stars, but has been observed to be effective up to galactic-wide scales. The exact mechanism which allows the ionising radiation to escape the star-forming regions (HII regions), initially still embedded in their natal molecular hydrogen gas, is still unknown. Constraining the escape of ionising photons from HII regions is also relevant in order to explain the origin of the diffuse ionised gas (DIG) that is observed to contribute up to 50% to the Ha luminosity of nearby galaxies. I present the results of the study of stellar feedback in two nearby galaxies (NGC 7793 and M83), at spatial scales that critically connect the sources of ionisation with their immediate surroundings. We determine the fraction of DIG and study its properties and origin. We find that in NGC 7793 ionising sources located in the DIG are producing a sufficient amount of hydrogen-ionising (LyC) photons to explain the diffuse gas emission. In M83, on the other hand, the DIG is ionised by a mixed contribution of photoionisation and shocks. We investigate the link between LyC leakage from HII regions and their stellar and gas properties. We find that the age spread of the stellar population in the region does not seem to imply a higher leakage. Also the ionisation structure of the regions (e.g. the presence of "channels" that are transparent to the LyC photons) appears to be uncorrelated with escape in our sample. In M83, we also study the relative importance of different types of stellar feedback. We find that the pressure exerted by the ionised gas is always dominant over the direct radiation pressure. When the total HII region pressure is compared to the environmental pressure, we observe that regions near the galactic centre are in equilibrium with the surroundings, whereas regions in the disk are overpressured and are therefore expanding. We also find that changes in the local environmental conditions are the dominant factor in setting the ionised gas pressure, and that the pressure terms are linked to the physical properties (age and mass) of the young star clusters powering the regions. In the near future, observations from the James Webb Space Telescope will allow us to study the most embedded star-forming regions with a resolution comparable to the present one.