Cool dust heating and temperature mixing in nearby star-forming galaxies

L. K. Hunt, B. T. Draine, S. Bianchi, K. D. Gordon, G. Aniano, D. Calzetti, D. A. Dale, G. Helou, J. L. Hinz, R. C. Kennicutt, H. Roussel, C. D. Wilson, A. Bolatto, M. Boquien, K. V. Croxall, M. Galametz, A. Gil De Paz, J. Koda, J. C. Muñoz-Mateos, K. M. SandstromM. Sauvage, L. Vigroux, S. Zibetti

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Physical conditions of the interstellar medium in galaxies are closely linked to the ambient radiation field and the heating of dust grains. In order to characterize dust properties in galaxies over a wide range of physical conditions, we present here the radial surface brightness profiles of the entire sample of 61 galaxies from Key Insights into Nearby Galaxies: Far-Infrared Survey with Herschel (KINGFISH). The main goal of our work is the characterization of the grain emissivities, dust temperatures, and interstellar radiation fields (ISRFs) responsible for heating the dust. We first fit the radial profiles with exponential functions in order to compare stellar and cool-dust disk scalelengths, as measured by 3.6 μm and 250 μm surface brightnesses. Our results show thatthe stellar and dust scalelengths are comparable, with a mean ratio of 1.04, although several galaxies show dust-to-stellar scalelength ratios of 1.5 or more. We then fit the far-infrared spectral energy distribution (SED) in each annular region with single-temperature modified blackbodies using both variable (MBBV) and fixed (MBBF) emissivity indices β, as well as with physically motivated dust models. The KINGFISH profiles are well suited to examining trends of dust temperature Tdust and β because they span a factor of ~200 in the ISRF intensity heating the bulk of the dust mass, Umin. Results from fitting the profile SEDs suggest that, on average, Tdust, dust optical depth τdust, and Umin decrease with radius. The emissivity index β also decreases with radius in some galaxies, but in others is increasing, or rising in the inner regions and falling in the outer ones. Despite the fixed grain emissivity (average β ~ 2.1) of the physically-motivated models, they are well able to accommodate flat spectral slopes with β ≲ 1. An analysis of the wavelength variations of dust emissivities in both the data and the models shows that flatter slopes (β ≲ 1.5) are associated with cooler temperatures, contrary to what would be expected from the usual Tdust - β degeneracy. This trend is related to variations in Umin since β and Umin are very closely linked over the entire range in Umin sampled by the KINGFISH galaxies: low Umin is associated with flat β ≲ 1. Both these results strongly suggest that the low apparent β values (flat slopes) in MBBV fits are caused by temperature mixing along the line of sight, rather than by intrinsic variations in grain properties. Finally, a comparison of dust models and the data show a slight ~10% excess at 500 μm for low metallicity (12 + log (O/H) ≲ 8) and low far-infrared surface brightness (Σ500).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA33
JournalAstronomy and astrophysics
StatePublished - Apr 2015


  • Dust, extinction
  • Galaxies: ISM
  • Galaxies: star formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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  • KINGFISH galaxy sample radial profile SED

    Hunt, L. K. (Creator), Draine, B. T. (Creator), Bianchi, S. (Creator), Gordon, K. D. (Creator), Aniano, G. (Creator), Calzetti, D. (Creator), Dale, D. A. (Creator), Helou, G. (Creator), Hinz, J. L. (Creator), Kennicutt, R. C. (Creator), Roussel, H. (Creator), Wilson, C. D. (Creator), Bolatto, A. (Creator), Boquien, M. (Creator), Croxall, K. V. (Creator), Galametz, M. (Creator), Gil, D. P. A. (Creator), Koda, J. (Creator), Munoz-Mateos, J. C. (Contributor), Sandstrom, K. M. (Creator), Sauvage, M. (Creator) & Vigroux, L. (Creator), Centre de Donnees Strasbourg (CDS), 2015


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