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Astron. Astrophys. 324, 490-504 (1997)

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The determination of the star formation rate in galaxies

G. Barbaro 1 and B.M. Poggianti 2, 3, 4

1 Dipartimento di Astronomia, vicolo dell'Osservatorio 5, I-35122 Padova, Italy (barbaro@astrpd.pd.astro.it)
2 Institute of Astronomy, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0HA, UK
3 Royal Greenwich Observatory, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0EZ, UK
4 Kapteyn Instituut, P.O. Box 800, 9700 AV Groningen, The Netherlands (bianca@astro.rug.nl)

Received 25 July 1996 / Accepted 17 February 1997


A spectrophotometric model able to compute the integrated spectrum of a galaxy, including the contribution both of the stellar populations and of the ionized interstellar gas of the HII regions powered by young hot stars, has been used to study several spectral features and photometric quantities in order to derive calibrations of the star formation history of late type galaxies. Attention has been paid to analyze the emission of the Balmer lines and the [OII] [FORMULA] 3727 line to test their attitude at providing estimates of the present star formation rate in galaxies. Other features, like D4000 and the equivalent width of the [FORMULA] line, influenced by the presence of intermediate age stars, have been considered.

Several ways of estimating the star formation rates in normal galaxies are discussed and some considerations concerning the applicability of the models are presented. Criteria have been also studied for ascertaining the presence of a burst, current or ended not long ago. Bursts usually hinder the determination of the past star formation rate.

Key words: galaxies: evolution – galaxies: stellar content – galaxies: fundamental parameters – H ii regions

Send offprint requests to: G. Barbaro

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1997

Online publication: May 26, 1998