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Understanding Intense Star Formation through Observations and Modelling

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Observations of star-forming galaxies in the distant Universe (z > 2) are starting to confirm the importance of massive stars in shaping galaxy emission and evolution. The intense starbursts common at high redshift, are rare but also identifiable in local analogue galaxies. Understanding these populations, and their evolution with age and heavy element content is likely to be key to interpreting processes such as supernova and gamma-ray burst rates, cosmic reionization and the chemical enrichment of the Universe through galaxy-scale winds. It can even be important for the history of habitability on galaxy scales. One avenue of exploring these populations is through the study of local galaxies which share the star formation properties of the distant Universe. A second, overlapping, approach is through modelling. Distant stellar populations are unresolved, and the limited data available must be interpreted in the context of stellar population models. With the upcoming launch of JWST and the promise of observations of galaxies within a billion years of the Big Bang, the uncertainties in modelling massive stars are becoming increasingly important to our interpretation of the high redshift Universe. In turn, these observations of distant stellar populations will provide ever stronger tests against which to gauge the success of, and flaws in, current massive star and stellar population synthesis models.

This talk is part of the Institute of Astronomy Colloquia series.

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