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9/6/18: SO/NOAO Joint Colloquium Series: Rob Kennicutt, Steward


Title: The Schmidt Law at Sixty

Sixty years have passed since Marten Schmidt's conjecture that star formation in galaxies was closely coupled to gas density, and since that time the Schmidt law has become an indispensable tool for interpreting, modelling, and simulating large-scale star formation in galaxies. Despite its success as a sub-grid "recipe" for the star formation rate, however, we remain far away from an ab initio theory of star formation, or even a clear understanding of the physics underlying the scaling laws themselves. This talk will review the current state of our observational understanding of star formation in galaxies, and the complexity which lies beneath the surface of the observed SFR scaling relations. We are in the midst of an observational and theoretical renaissance in the subject, as multi-wavelength observations reveal the multi-scale nature of the star formation process, and the complex interactions which are taking place between cosmological, gravitational, interstellar, and stellar feedback processes on these different scales. The picture which emerges is one in which the star formation scaling laws are manifestations of a highly dynamic and self-regulating ecosystem in galactic disks.