Understanding the internal activity, structure and history of a galaxy is of fundamental importance in astrophysics. Different energy bands (optical, X-ray, radio, IR, UV, etc) probe different processes and different stages of a cycle that links star forma tion and evolution, heating and cooling of gas, creation of compact remnants. Hence, an integrated, multi-wavelength study is necessary to form a complete picture; in particular, X-ray observations are crucial. The new generation of X-ray telescopes (NASA' s Chandra and ESA's XMM-Newton) has now made detailed X-ray studies of nearby galaxies possible. My goal is to achieve a global understanding of the physical processes and star-formation activity in spiral galaxies. I shall study new X-ray data for a sampl e of four, suitably selected nearby spirals, and interpret them in parallel with information at other wavelengths. I shall use the X-ray properties of a galaxy as a tool to understand its global activity. More specifically, I shall determine the age, lumin osity, physical type and variability of the point-like X-ray sources (accreting neutron stars and black holes, supernova remnants, white dwarfs). I shall study the spatial distribution, temperature, metal abundance of the hot gas, comparing it with the dis tribution of the cold and warm gas and of the stars. I shall determine the relation between the observed properties of the X-ray sources and the current and past star-forming activity. I propose to conduct my research at Harvard and University College Lond on, because these institutions offer the best expertise in the analysis of X-ray data, as well as in theoretical astrophysics and multi-wavelength observational astronomy. In addition to the scientific training, I shall form new collaborations in the US, t o the benefit of my scientific and academic career. A strong link between the astrophysics groups at Harvard and UCL will allow a better exploitation of the combined Chandra and XMM-Newton data.
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