The star formation history of the large magellanic cloud

Jason Harris, Dennis Zaritsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

381 Scopus citations


We present the first ever global, spatially resolved reconstruction of the star formation history (SFH) of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), based on the application of our StarFISH analysis software to the multiband photometry of 20 million of its stars from the Magellanic Clouds Photometric Survey. The general outlines of our results are consistent with previously published results: following an initial burst of star formation, there was a quiescent epoch from approximately 12 to 5 Gyr ago. Star formation then resumed and has proceeded until the current time at an average rate of roughly 0.2 M yr-1, with temporal variations at the factor of 2 level. The re-ignition of star formation about 5 Gyr ago, in both the LMC and Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), is suggestive of a dramatic event at that time in the Magellanic system. Among the global variations in the recent star formation rate are peaks at roughly 2 Gyr, 500 Myr, 100 Myr, and 12 Myr. The peaks at 500 Myr and 2 Gyr are nearly coincident with similar peaks in the SFH of the SMC, suggesting a joint history for these galaxies extending back at least several Gyr. The chemical enrichment history recovered from our StarFISH analysis is in broad agreement with that inferred from the LMC's star cluster population, although our constraints on the ancient chemical enrichment history are weak. We conclude from the concordance between the star formation and chemical enrichment histories of the field and cluster populations that the field and cluster star formation modes are tightly coupled.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1243-1260
Number of pages18
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2009


  • Evolution galaxies
  • Galaxies
  • Individual (Large Magellanic Cloud) galaxies
  • Stellar content Magellanic Clouds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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