Massive star clusters are very long-lived entities that are believed to originate during the most vigorous star-forming episodes in a galaxy's lifetime, therefore preserving a fossil record of these events. Most large galaxies possess significant populations of very ancient globular clusters, and these objects are commonly used to infer information about the evolutionary history of their host systems. For example, the properties of globular clusters in the Milky Way halo indicate that our Galaxy has likely accreted and torn apart a number of much smaller galaxies over the course of its existence.
The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (LMC/SMC) are two dwarf galaxy companions to the Milky Way. They are of particular interest because, unlike many galaxies, they possess numerous massive star clusters spanning a very wide range of ages (~10 Myr --> 10 Gyr). They thus serve as excellent laboratories for investigating how the properties of these objects change with age, allowing us to piece together vital information about star cluster formation and evolution. In turn, the LMC and SMC star cluster systems also reveal important clues about the histories of their hosts, complementing studies of the field populations in these galaxies.
This PhD project will focus on the star cluster systems of the LMC and SMC. There are a wide variety of avenues which could be explored, depending on the interests of the student. These include:
- measuring and understanding the structural and dynamical properties of star clusters, and how these evolve with age
- learning more about a subset of peculiar intermediate-age star clusters which very likely experienced multiple episodes of star formation
- investigating how the ages and chemical abundances of star clusters relate to the properties of the surrounding field.
While this work is predominantly observational, opportunites will exist to conduct sophisticated direct N-body modelling of Magellanic-type clusters in order to interpret observational results.
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