Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 November 2010
The 30 Doradus nebula is the nearest example of a giant HII region, and as such it offers a unique laboratory for studying in detail the structure, stellar content, and dynamics of a starburst region. We begin with an overview of the 30 Doradus region on scales of 0.1–1000 pc, and then discuss two current problems of particular relevance to this conference, the stellar content and IMF in 30 Dor, and the violent dynamics of its interstellar medium.
It is a pleasure to open a conference where 30 Doradus defines the bottom end of the star formation scale! The 30 Doradus region offers a most appropriate starting point for a conference on star formation in galaxies. It is the nearest example of a bona fide giant extragalactic HII region (GEHR), and it is the largest star forming region in the Local Group. It is large enough to exhibit many of the properties of the most luminous starbursts, yet close enough so that its physical structure and stellar content can be studied in detail. As such 30 Dor and other nearby GEHRs provide several crucial pieces of information about starbursts in general. They are the only regions where the embedded stellar population can be resolved and studied directly; this provides a unique stellar census of a starburst, which can be used to test the synthesis models which must be applied to more distant, unresolved GEHRs and starbursts.