The secret of fire: triggered star formation

Part of the Springer Praxis Books book series (PRAXIS)


Let us turn back to fundamentals now, to keep our focus, avoiding the distractions along the many byways of the world of galaxies that we have wandered through in the last few chapters. The first of the two most important effects of galaxy collisions is that they build bigger galaxies from the small ones that formed first. They do this because mergers are inevitable, unless the collision happens to occur at very high relative velocity, e.g., in a dense galaxy cluster. The second important effect is that collisions and mergers evidently drive high rates of star formation, and increased nuclear activity in at least some cases. A major part of the meaning of the term “galaxy evolution” is the process of turning interstellar gas into stars, and increasing the heavy element abundance of gas and stars as a result of nuclear processing in successive stellar generations. Thus, collisions and mergers affect galaxy evolution, sometimes by a large factor. Induced star formation is also responsible for the beautiful imagery of colliding galaxies, with young star clusters scattered like jewels in some cases.


Star Formation Globular Cluster Spiral Wave Star Cluster Star Formation Rate 
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Further reading

  1. Kennicutt, R.C., Jr., “Induced Star Formation,” in Galaxies: Interactions and Induced Star Formation: Saas-Fee Advanced Course 26, eds. D. Friedli, L. Martinet, and D. Pfenniger (Springer, New York) 1998.Google Scholar
  2. Larson, R.B., and Tinsley, B.M., “Star Formation Rates in Normal and Peculiar Galaxies,” Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 219, p. 46, 1978.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. “Starbursts From 30 Doradus to Lyman Break Galaxies,“ in Astrophysics and Space Science Library, Vol. 329, eds. R. de Gris, and R.M. Gonzalez Delgado, (Springer, Dordrecht) 2005. (This book is a technical conference proceedings volume, but contains some articles that are not highly technical, and provides an introduction to the literature.)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Iowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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