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Stellar Population Synthesis for the Future

Astronomy Spring Colloquia May 18, 2010 Tuesday, 4:30pm-5:30pm, Peyton Hall auditorium:

Charlie Conroy, Princeton University

Knowledge of the physical properties of galaxies is essential to identify the processes responsible for their emergence and evolution through cosmic time. Stellar population synthesis (SPS) is the principle technique that links the observable characteristics of galaxies to their physical properties, including their star formation and chemical enrichment histories, and dust content. In this talk I will review the necessary ingredients for SPS, assess their relative uncertainties, and demonstrate how progress can be made toward building more accurate models.  Along the way, we will gain new insight into old problems, including the importance of thermally-pulsating AGB stars, the IMF in massive galaxies, and the properties of the ISM in star-forming galaxies.