Massive stars have a tremendous impact on their surroundings, largely due to a prodigious production rate of Lyman continuum photons and their inevitable termination in a supernova explosion. A single OB star may ionize a sufficiently luminous HII region to remain detectable out to distances of many Mpc. By concentrating the mechanical power of many high mass stars in a limited volume over a short time period, OB associations are known to produce large expanding bubbles in the interstellar medium (ISM). Aperture synthesis observations of HI in nearby galaxies clearly reveal the bubbly character of the diffuse ISM and highlight the connection with massive stars. In this dissertation I close the loop between theory and observations regarding massive stars, their incipient HII regions, and related expanding shells, all in the hope of learning more about the diffuse ISM. The research described herein has three main components: (1)object recognition in the context of HI datacubes and hydrodynamic shell models, (2)automated photometry of HII regions in crowded narrowband images, and (3)population synthesis modeling of stellar clusters and expanding shells in disk galaxies. I have created efficient procedures for conducting a census of HI superbubbles and young massive star clusters in nearby galaxies, plus a modeling framework allowing one to check these databases for relative agreement. My population synthesis algorithm predicts ensemble characteristics: of a disk-galaxy shell population, given details of the stellar cluster formation process and global properties of the galaxy in question. My automated HI object recognition method has made possible the Las Cruces/Dwingeloo Supershell Survey (LCDSS) of 21 nearby disk galaxies. In this dissertation I present early LCDSS results for NGC 300, NGC 2403, M81, and M101. Furthermore, I demonstrate the technique for photometry of HII regions by analyzing a small sample of 11 prominent spirals. The photometric measurements are then used to generate HII region luminosity functions (HII LFs). Finally, I perform detailed fitting of these observed HII LFs with predictions obtained using the population synthesis method.
- Pub Date:
- Physics: Astronomy and Astrophysics