NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2010B-0189

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Proposal Information for 2010B-0189


PI: Nate Bastian, University of Exeter, bastian@astro.ex.ac.uk
Address: Astrophysics Group, School of Physics, University of Exeter, Stocker Road, Exeter EX4 4QL, United Kingdom, United Kingdom

CoI: Michael Meyer, ETH Zurich
CoI: Julia Greissl, University of Arizona
CoI: Anil Seth, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Title: Testing IMF universality through the direct detection of low mass stars in starburst galaxies

Abstract: Whether or not the initial mass function (IMF) of stars is universal, or is instead sensitive to the initial conditions of star formation is a source of vigorous discussion. The distinction is of critical importance: the IMF influences most of the observable properties of stellar populations and galaxies, and detecting variations in the IMF could provide deep insights into the star formation process. We propose to obtain near-IR spectra with NIFS on Gemini-North of the central starburst region in M82, in order to directly detect the presense of low mass pre-main sequence stars. Through quantitative analysis of high S/N spectra, the number of low mass stars relative to high mass stars can be estimated, providing the most direct constraint on the IMF possible for galaxies outside the local group. This technique has recently been verified for young clusters in the Antennae merging galaxies. M82 (which is a factor of 6 closer than the Antennae) is the local template most often used to understand high redshift star-forming galaxies, and hence it is a key touchstone in our understanding of the IMF.


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