Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Spatial Distribution of Star Formation in Galaxies: Observing the Emergence of Galactic Structure
by Nelson, Erica June, Ph.D., Yale University, 2016, 155; 10160870
Abstract (Summary)

A high resolution measurement of the distribution of star formation within galaxies is key to understanding the emergence of galactic structure. The aim of this thesis is to understand how the structure of galaxies is built by developing a new method to spatially resolve their star formation. Using Ha maps for 2676 galaxies, this thesis shows where star formation is distributed in galaxies during the epoch 0.7 < z</italic> < 1.5 when a third of the total star formation in the history of the universe occurred. Across the star formation rate - stellar mass plane (the "main sequence"), star formation is `spatially coherent': in galaxies with higher than average star formation rates, Ha is enhanced throughout the disk; similarly, in galaxies with low star formation rates Ha is depressed throughout the disk. This places constraints both on the mechanisms for enhancing and quenching star formation as well as on how the structure of galaxies is built. The disk scale length of star formation in galaxies is larger than that of the stars, a direct demonstration that the disks of galaxies grow inside-out. While most star formation in most galaxies occurs in disks, not all of it does. With the first spatially resolved measurement of the Balmer decrement at z > 1, it can be seen that galaxies with M* > 1010M[special characters omitted] have significant dust attenuation toward their centers. This means that we are witnessing the build-up of the dense stellar cores of massive galaxies through dust-obscured in-situ star formation. The most massive galaxies are thought to have formed their dense stellar cores at even earlier cosmic epochs. This thesis presents the first confirmed example of a massive galaxy core in the process of formation at z = 2.3. It has one of the highest velocity dispersions ever measured for a normal star forming galaxy and also appears to be building through very dense, dust-enshrouded star formation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: van Dokkum, Pieter G.
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-B 78/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Astrophysics, Astronomy
Keywords: Dust Attenuation, Galaxy Evolution, Galaxy Formation, Galaxy Structure, Kinematics and Dynamics, Star Formation
Publication Number: 10160870
ISBN: 9781369157659
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