An image of M82, taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope

Astronomers at UMass are involved in a number of observational and theoretical research projects on galaxies in the nearby Universe. The purpose is to investigate their star formation processes and the feedback from those processes; their dust and gas content, distribution, and structure; and their dynamic evolution. Many observational facilities are being used for these studies, including both space-based telescopes (Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra, XMM-Newton, GALEX, and the upcoming Herschel Space Telescope) and ground-based telescopes (optical telescopes, VLA, and the upcoming LMT).

The LMT will provide unprecedented sensitivity and speed to map the cold, dense gas and dust components of nearby galaxies. These new data will provide leverage for investigating the relationship between the newly formed stars and the gas from which those stars were born based on galaxy morphology, luminosity, and environment. The low density regions on the outskirts of galaxies provide an excellent testing ground for the thresholds of star formation and for investigating the nature (primordial or produced by gas ejection) of the gas envelopes surrounding galaxies.

Current projects using the Hubble, Chandra, and Spitzer Telescopes are investigating the resolved stellar populations and the interfaces between photo-ionized and shock-ionized regions in nearby galaxies, the output from energetic processes, the distribution and content of dust, and the extinction this dust produces in galaxies.