The H I chronicles of LITTLE THINGS blue compact dwarf galaxies

Trisha Lynn Ashley, Florida International University


Star formation occurs when the gas (mostly atomic hydrogen; H I) in a galaxy becomes disturbed, forming regions of high density gas, which then collapses to form stars. In dwarf galaxies it is still uncertain which processes contribute to star formation and how much they contribute to star formation. Blue compact dwarf (BCD) galaxies are low mass, low shear, gas rich galaxies that have high star formation rates when compared to other dwarf galaxies. What triggers the dense burst of star formation in BCDs but not other dwarfs is not well understood. It is often suggested that BCDs may have their starburst triggered by gravitational interactions with other galaxies, dwarf-dwarf galaxy mergers, or consumption of intergalactic gas. However, there are BCDs that appear isolated with respect to other galaxies, making an external disturbance unlikely. Here, I study six apparently isolated BCDs from the LITTLE THINGS sample in an attempt to understand what has triggered their burst of star formation. LITTLE THINGS is an H I survey of 41 dwarf galaxies. Each galaxy has high angular and velocity resolution H I data from the Very Large Array (VLA) telescope and ancillary stellar data. I use these data to study the detailed morphology and kinematics of each galaxy, looking for signatures of starburst triggers. In addition to the VLA data, I have collected Green Bank Telescope data for the six BCDs. These high sensitivity, low resolution data are used to search the surrounding area of each galaxy for extended emission and possible nearby companion galaxies. The VLA data show evidence that each BCD has likely experienced some form of external disturbance despite their apparent isolation. These external disturbances potentially seen in the sample include: ongoing/advanced dwarf-dwarf mergers, an interaction with an unknown external object, and external gas consumption. The GBT data result in no nearby, separate H I companions at the sensitivity of the data. These data therefore suggest that even though these BCDs appear isolated, they have not been evolving in isolation. It is possible that these external disturbances may have triggered the starbursts that defines them as BCDs.

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Recommended Citation

Ashley, Trisha Lynn, "The H I chronicles of LITTLE THINGS blue compact dwarf galaxies" (2014). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3644747.