Karin Sandstrom MPIA

The Connection between Star Formation and the Cold Interstellar Medium in Nearby Galaxies

The efficiency and rate at which interstellar gas is converted into stars govern the evolution and observable properties of galaxies over cosmic time. In the Milky Way we can study the star formation process in great detail, but only over a limited range of environmental conditions. We must move to nearby galaxies to expand this range. Over the last several years, multiwavelength surveys of nearby galaxies have provided key, new insights into the connection between star formation and the amount and properties of gas in the interstellar medium. I will present the results of recent work greatly improving the accuracy with which we trace molecular gas---a key ingredient for forming stars. I will show that while molecular gas is converted into stars with a constant efficiency in most regions of nearby galaxies, some central regions appear to have enhanced efficiency, similar to what has been observed in starbursts induced by galaxy mergers. Finally, I will discuss the exciting prospects for studying molecular gas and star formation in nearby galaxies with the next generation of telescopes.