We present high-resolution near-infrared imaging obtained using adaptive optics and HST/NICMOS, and ground-based spectroscopy of the hotspot galaxy NGC 2903. Our near-infrared resolution imaging enables us to resolve the infrared hotspots into individual young stellar clusters or groups of these. The spatial distribution of the stellar clusters is not coincident with that of the bright H II regions, as revealed by the HST/NICMOS Paα image. Overall, the circumnuclear star formation in NGC 2903 shows a ring-like morphology with an approximate diameter of 625 pc. The star formation properties of the stellar clusters and H II regions have been studied using the photometric and spectroscopic information in conjunction with evolutionary synthesis models. The population of bright stellar clusters shows a very narrow range of ages, 4-7 × 106 yr after the peak of star formation, or absolute ages 6.5-9.5 × 106 yr (for the assumed short-duration Gaussian bursts), and luminosities similar to the clusters found in the Antennae interacting galaxy. This population of young stellar clusters accounts for some 7-12 per cent of the total stellar mass in the central 625 pc of NGC 2903. The H II regions in the ring of star formation have luminosities close to that of the supergiant H II region 30 Doradus, they are younger than the stellar clusters, and they will probably evolve into bright infrared stellar clusters similar to those observed today. We find that the star formation efficiency in the central regions of NGC 2903 is higher than in normal galaxies, approaching the lower end of infrared luminous galaxies.
- Galaxies: individual: NGC 2903
- Galaxies: photometry
- Galaxies: star clusters
- Galaxies: starburst
- Infrared: galaxies