STARBURSTS (The role of starburts in galaxy formation and evolution)is a coordinated project in which participate CIEMAT, the Astrophysical Institute of Andalucia (coordinator P.I.: José Manuel Vílchez Medina), the Astrophysics Institute of Canarias and the Autonoma University of Madrid. Starsbursts play a key role in the cosmic evolution of galaxies. There is an intimate link between the average star formation (SF) rate history of the universe and galaxy mass and metal content. This fact, together with the prevalence of the extreme SF conditions in the primeval galaxy population, tells us that the starburst phenomenon constitutes a fundamental ingredient for our understanding of the Universe. Starbursts are observed in many locations, from the disks of nearby spirals, observable in the form of giant HII regions, to the very distant primeval galaxies, discovered in large numbers in the last decade and very probably the first constituents of present day galaxies. Since SF evolution seems to have been higher in the remote past than at present epoch, the effects of early massive SF are expected to be more evident than observed in our local vicinity. A large part of star-forming galaxies are gas-rich systems dominated by the light of young massive star clusters, including an important component of extremely metal poor (XMP) dwarfs. In this project we use these XMP as local analogs of the most distant primeval starbursts. On the other hand, extreme starbursts can also be found located in the inner parts of galaxies hosting AGNs, or in galaxies populating the very dense environments of groups and/or clusters at earlier epochs.

This project is aimed at performing a comprehensive study of the physics of local massive SF regions i n order to enlarge our understanding of the most distant galaxies and most extreme starbursts. The main goal of this approach is the investigation of the interplay of massive SF with the gas, dust and stellar content in galaxies, characterizing the SF process at the extremes of galaxy mass, luminosity, metallicity and environment. This will help to find solutions to key issues in the formation and evolution of galaxies.

To reach our objectives, we will combine observational studies of starbursts (using ground based spectrophotometry together with space-borne observations) along with our self-consistent theoretical models. We have structured our research for the next coming years around four main objectives: 1) Interplay between massive SF and the interstellar medium in galaxies. 2) Local laboratories for the understanding of galaxy disk formation. 3) Role of the environment on massive SF and evolution of galaxies. 4) Extreme starbursts in the Universe. ESTALLIDOS is also prepared to actively contribute to the development of a set of astrophysical instruments, with a formally adquired responsibility both at the level of instrument and science teams.