On the distribution of dust in the large magellanic cloud

Jason Harris, Dennis Zaritsky, Ian Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


We present a detailed map of the reddening in a 1.9° × 1.5° section of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), constructed from UBVI photometry of 2069 O and B main sequence stars. We use two reddening-free photometric parameters to determine the line-of-sight reddening to these stars. We find a mean reddening, 〈E(B-V)〉LMC=0.20 mag, with a non-Gaussian tail to high values. When the reddening is corrected for foreground Galactic extinction (Oestreicher et al. 1995, A&AS, 112, 495), we find 〈E(B-V)〉LMC=0.13 mag. The line-of-sight values are then interpolated onto a uniform grid with a local least-squares plane fitting routine to construct a reddening map of the region. We use the distribution of reddening values to constrain the line-of-sight geometry of stars and dust in the LMC, and to test and normalize a standard extinction correction for galaxy photometry. We attempt to distinguish between line-of-sight depth effects and structure in the dust distribution as possible causes for the observed differential reddening through this region. We conclude: (1) that our data are consistent with a vertical exponential distribution of stars and dust in the LMC, for which the dust scale height is twice that of the OB stars; (2) that the dust distribution must be non-uniform (clumpy) to account for the full distribution of measured reddening values (i.e., line-of-sight effects alone are insufficient to explain the observed structure); and (3) that the B-band optical depth, τB, through the observed region of the LMC is 0.69<τB0.82.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1933-1944
Number of pages12
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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