Star formation is arguably the most significant physical process taking place in the Cosmos -- generating most of the radiant energy as well as the elements that make up the stars and planets. For this reason, there is a long-standing interest in understanding the star formation history of the Universe. Recent advances in technology and techniques have facilitated ever more sensitive measurements of star formation at ever higher redshifts. However, these surveys of increasingly distant sources necessarily rely on a diminishing number of observables -- the most distant galaxies tend to be the faintest. Thus many of the standard measures aren't feasible and inferences about star formation rates depend on observations in just a few wavebands.

To address this issue, we are carrying out the Star Formation Reference Survey (SFRS): a multi-national, multi-wavelength study of star formation in the nearby Universe. By focusing on nearby, bright galaxies, we hope to bring the largest possible number of techniques to bear on the problem, furnishing a benchmark whereby the increasing numbers of deep-sky surveys can be reliably interpreted. The cornerstone of the SFRS project are the four-band near-infrared imaging observations carried out with the IRAC instrument aboard the Spitzer Space Telescope (pictured at right). But we are combining these with archival data from a variety of both ground- and space-based facilities (e.g., the VLA, GALEX, SDSS) as well as our own new observations (e.g., Spitzer/MIPS, PAIRITEL, FAST, NAOC). The montage at the top of this page show how the appearance of one particular galaxy (NGC 2608) changes when observed by (from left to right) the GALEX far-UV and near-UV bands, SDSS ugriz, and in the infrared at 3.6 and 8.0 microns. Each of these wavebands trace different aspects of the star formation phenomenon. We have comparable data from these and other factilities for all 350+ galaxies in the SFRS sample.

Please contact the project coordinator, Dr. Matthew Ashby, for more information.

photo of spitzer