Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Galaxies Viewed as Collections of Individual Stars
Julianne Dalcanton, University of Washington
In extragalactic astronomy, we routinely observe galaxies in broad-band filters, and then interpret the resulting spectral energy distribution to learn about the galaxies' masses, star formation rates, ages, and metallicities. The fidelity of this interpretation relies on having a detailed understanding of the stellar populations within the galaxy, and on accurately characterizing the luminosities and colors of the billions of stars which contribute to a galaxy's light. In this talk I will discuss several large programs which use the Hubble Space Telescope to resolve millions of the most luminous stars in nearby galaxies. I will highlight results using near infrared observations, focusing on implications for the evolution of stars, the integrated NIR light of distant galaxies, and the structure of the dusty interstellar medium.