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    A Variation of the Present Star Formation Activity of Spiral Galaxies

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    The star formation rate in spiral galaxies is considered to be decreasing continuously with time in a time scale of 10910^{9} yr. The present star formation activity, on the other hand, shows various degrees among galaxies. We make a new data set of 1681 nearby spiral galaxies from available databases and study the statistics of the present star formation activity. We analyze far-infrared and optical B-band surface brightnesses of the H II regions and the non-H II regions in M~31 and show that a far-infrared-to-optical B-band flux ratio, f(FIR)/f(B), is a useful indicator of the present star formation activity of spiral galaxies. For the sample galaxies, we make the distribution diagram of log (f(FIR)/f(B)) versus log L(B) for each morphological type. The distribution of f(FIR)/f(B) has a dispersion of one to two orders of magnitude even within the same morphological type of galaxies, implying that the star formation activities of spiral galaxies changes discontinuously in a short time scale. Analyzing the log (f(FIR)/f(B)) versus log L(B) correlation, we suggest that the most active star formation in galaxies does not continue longer than 10^{8} yr. We also construct a universal distribution histogram of log (f(FIR)/f(B)) for each morphological type. The earlier-type spirals tend to show larger variation of the present star formation activity. We discuss the correlation between the present star formation activity and the structures and environments of galaxies. We suggest that the short-term variation occurs primarily due to internal processes which may change with the morphological type of galaxies.Comment: LaTeX file, 32 pages including tables without figs. 30 figures at ftp://ftp.kusastro.kyoto-u.ac.jp/pub/atomita/preprint/p1489/p1489.tar.gz . To appear in PASJ, Vol. 48, No. 2, April 1996 issu