|Title||Star clusters as crucial tracers of galaxy evolution and probes into star formation|
In the Local Universe, a significant fraction of the stars are observed to form in gas-embedded clusters. The exciting prospect has therefore arisen that star cluster systems can trace the star formation histories of their host galaxies. I will review how observed cluster properties can be used to achieve this goal, and also describe the pitfalls made by observational biases.
Most stars are lost from clusters after clusters expel their residual star-forming gas. In spite of its shortness (about 50 Myr), this phase of cluster evolution is therefore crucial for reconstructing galaxy star formation histories. It strongly depends on cluster-formation conditions (e.g. formation efficiencies inside cluster parent molecular cores) and leaves a profound imprint on young star clusters. Therefore, deciphering young cluster properties will allow us to probe sharply into cluster-formation conditions, positioning star clusters at a crossroad between star formation and galaxy evolution.