Collisional Debris as Laboratories to Study Star Formation
In this paper we address the question of whether star formation (SF) is driven by local processes or the large-scale environment. To do so, we investigate SF in collisional debris where the gravitational potential well and velocity gradients are shallower and compare our results with previous work on SF in noninteracting spiral and dwarf galaxies. We have performed multiwavelength spectroscopic and imaging observations (from the far-ultraviolet to the mid-infrared) of six interacting systems, identifying a total of 60 star-forming regions in their collision debris. Our analysis indicates that in these regions (1) the emission of the dust is at the expected level for their luminosity and metallicity, (2) the usual tracers of SFR display the typical trend and scatter found in classical star-forming regions, and (3) the extinction and metallicity are not the main parameters governing the scatter in the properties of intergalactic star-forming regions; age effects and variations in the number of stellar populations seem to play an important role. Our work suggests that local properties such as column density and dust content, rather than the large-scale environment seem to drive SF. This means that intergalactic star-forming regions can be used as a reliable tool to study SF.