Dust Abundance Variations in the Magellanic Clouds: Probing the Life-cycle of Metals with All-sky Surveys

Roman-Duval, Julia, Bot, Caroline, Chastenet, Jeremy, & Gordon, Karl
2017, The Astrophysical Journal, 841, 72


Observations and modeling suggest that dust abundance (gas-to-dust ratio, G/D) depends on (surface) density. Variations of the G/D provide timescale constraints for the different processes involved in the life cycle of metals in galaxies. Recent G/D measurements based on Herschel data suggest a factor of 5-10 decrease in dust abundance between the dense and diffuse interstellar media (ISM) in the Magellanic Clouds. However, the relative nature of the Herschel measurements precludes definitive conclusions as to the magnitude of those variations. We investigate variations of the dust abundance in the LMC and SMC using all-sky far-infrared surveys, which do not suffer from the limitations of Herschel on their zero-point calibration. We stack the dust spectral energy distribution (SED) at 100, 350, 550, and 850 microns from IRAS and Planck in intervals of gas surface density, model the stacked SEDs to derive the dust surface density, and constrain the relation between G/D and gas surface density in the range 10-100 M ⊙ pc-2 on ˜80 pc scales. We find that G/D decreases by factors of 3 (from 1500 to 500) in the LMC and 7 (from 1.5× {10}4 to 2000) in the SMC between the diffuse and dense ISM. The surface-density-dependence of G/D is consistent with elemental depletions, and with simple modeling of the accretion of gas-phase metals onto dust grains. This result has important implications for the sub-grid modeling of galaxy evolution, and for the calibration of dust-based gas-mass estimates, both locally and at high redshift.

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