Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 September 2016
The availability of high spatial resolution molecular gas observations from ALMA, and similar resolution observations in the radio continuum using the VLA, is providing the opportunity to make comparisons with specific features seen in optical observations more directly than in the past. Using our ALMA observations of the Antennae galaxies as a springboard, we have compared the locations of small-scale CO (3−2) features with a variety of multi-wavelength observations, in particular optical and near-infrared imaging using both broad (UBVI) and narrow-band data (Hα and Paβ) taken with the HST, and radio (3.6 cm) continuum observations taken with the VLA. This comparison leads to the development of an evolutionary classification system which provides a framework for studying the sequence of star cluster formation and evolution, from diffuse Giant Molecular Clouds (GMCs), to proto, embedded, emerging, young, and intermediate/old star clusters. Using this evolutionary framework, we estimate the maximum age range of clusters formed in a single GMC is approximately 10 Myr. This suggests that the molecular gas is removed over this timescale, resulting in the cessation of star formation and the destruction of the GMC within a radius of about 200 pc.