Assembling Spiral Galaxies
Nearby spiral galaxies offer vital clues to some of the most fundamental questions about galaxy formation and evolution: What is the star formation history of the universe, past and future? When did disks form, during the final stages of a single primeval collapse, or as a continuous or episodic process? What is the evolutionary nature of the Hubble sequence, and what are the physical mechanisms that dictate the present-day Hubble type of a galaxy? Was Hubble type imprinted at birth, or can it be deterined or at least modified by infall, mergers, or secular dynamical evolution within the galaxy? These issues are not specific to spirals, of course, and much of this conference will address just these questions in a broader context. However present-day spirals offer unique advantages for studying these problems; they exhibit a broad range of dynamical and evolutionary properties, and the dynamical fragility of disks makes them excellent seismometers of galaxy interaction and merger rates at recent epochs.
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