Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 November 2010
Starbursts in four galaxy locations are discussed: on the periphery and in tidally ejected debris, in the main disk, in inner Lindblad resonance rings, and in the nucleus. Starbursts in dwarfs are also briefly mentioned. Possible reasons for the starbursts are summarized, mostly in the context of two theoretical models, one where star formation is initiated spontaneously by gravitational instabilities in disks, spiral arms or rings, and another where star formation is stimulated by high-pressure star clusters. The observed rates, efficiencies, and durations of star formation in all five regions follow from the models. We emphasize the importance of a critical density for star formation, which is approximately κ2/G for epicyclic frequency κ, and the importance of large-scale radial gas flows. Star formation tends to occur wherever the density exceeds the critical value. The rate of star formation is very large in inner rings and nuclear regions because the critical density is very high there. Normal galaxy disks have lower rates because of their lower κ. This difference in rates implies that inner rings and nuclear regions of galaxies can maintain their star formation for much shorter times than the main disks following an episode of gas accretion that makes the density exceed the critical value. Thus only the inner regions will have major fluctuations in the star formation rate. Normal galaxy disks probably have fluctuations too, but with lower amplitudes and longer durations.