SCYON Abstract

Received on September 5 2006

From nuclear clusters to halo globulars: Star clusters as basic galactic building blocks

AuthorsRichard de Grijs
University of Sheffield, UK
To appear into appear in: "Galaxy Evolution across the Hubble Time", IAU Symp. 235 (invited review), Combes F., Palous J., eds., CUP: Cambridge


I assess the similarities and differences between the star-formation modes in quiescent spiral galaxies versus those in violent starburst regions, including galactic nuclei. As opposed to the quiescent star-formation mode, current empirical evidence on the star-formation processes in the extreme, high-pressure environments induced by galaxy encounters strongly suggests that star cluster formation is an important and perhaps even the dominant mode of star formation in such starburst events. This implies that by using star clusters as unique diagnostic probes, we can trace a galaxy's most violent star formation history very well, at least for the past few Gyr. The sizes, luminosities, and mass estimates of the young massive star clusters are entirely consistent with what is expected for young Milky Way-type globular clusters (GCs). Recent evidence lends support to the scenario that GCs, which were once thought to be the oldest building blocks of galaxies, are still forming today.