Dust in Starburst Galaxies

Gordon, Karl D., Calzetti, Daniela, & Witt, Adolf N.
1997, Astrophysical Journal v.487, 487, 625


To investigate the nature of starburst dust, we constructed a model of the stars and dust in starburst galaxies and applied it to 30 observed starburst spectral energy distributions (SEDs). The starburst model was constructed by combining two stellar evolutionary synthesis models with a model describing the radiative transfer of stellar photons through dust. The stellar evolutionary synthesis models were used to compute the dust-free SEDs for stellar populations with ages between 1 x 106 and 15 x 109 yr. Using a Monte Carlo radiative transfer model, the effects of dust were computed for average Milky Way (MW) and Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) dust, two different star/dust geometries, and locally homogeneous or clumpy dust. Using color-color plots, the starburst model was used to interpret the behavior of 30 starbursts with aperture-matched UV and optical SEDs (and IR for 19 of the 30) from previous studies. From the color-color plots, it was evident that the dust in starbursts has an extinction curve lacking a 2175 Angstroms bump, like the SMC curve, and a steep far-UV rise, intermediate between the MW and SMC curves. The star/dust geometry that is able to explain the distribution of the 30 starbursts in various color-color plots has an inner dust-free sphere of stars surrounded by an outer star-free shell of clumpy dust. When combined with other work from the literature on the Orion region and the 30 Dor region of the Large Magellanic Cloud, this work implies a trend in dust properties with star formation intensity.

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