The nature of starbursts. III. the spatial distribution of star formation

Kristen B.W. Mcquinn, Evan D. Skillman, Julianne J. Dalcanton, John M. Cannon, Andrew E. Dolphin, Jon Holtzman, Daniel R. Weisz, Benjamin F. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


We map the spatial distribution of recent star formation over a few × 100Myr timescales in 15 starburst dwarf galaxies using the location of young blue helium burning stars identified from optically resolved stellar populations in archival Hubble Space Telescope observations. By comparing the star formation histories from both the high surface brightness central regions and the diffuse outer regions, we measure the degree to which the star formation has been centrally concentrated during the galaxies' starbursts, using three different metrics for the spatial concentration. We find that the galaxies span a full range in spatial concentration, from highly centralized to broadly distributed star formation. Since most starbursts have historically been identified by relatively short timescale star formation tracers (e.g., Hα emission), there could be a strong bias toward classifying only those galaxies with recent, centralized star formation as starbursts, while missing starbursts that are spatially distributed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number77
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012


  • galaxies: dwarf
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: starburst


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