The Space Telescope Science Institute Symposium on “The Local Group as an Astrophysical Laboratory” took place during 5–8 May 2003.
The Local Group is in some sense the universe in a nutshell. The processes of galaxy mergers and interactions are the bread and butter of hierarchical structure formation. These processes can be studied in unsurpassed detail in the Local Group. Starburst regions in the LMC provide spectacular local versions of their high-redshift counterparts. While black holes are believed to reside at the centers of most galaxies, the best determination of the mass of a central black hole has been achieved in our own Galaxy (through the orbits of individual stars). In addition, the Local Group provides a rich census of star formation histories and of stellar populations. In short, before we attempt to understand the Universe, understanding our own backyard is a good start.
These proceedings represent only a part of the invited talks that were presented at the symposium. We thank the contributing authors for preparing their manuscripts.
We thank Sharon Toolan of ST ScI for her help in preparing this volume for publication.