Untangling the nature of spatial variations of cold dust properties in star forming galaxies

Allison Kirkpatrick, Daniela Calzetti, Robert Kennicutt, Maud Galametz, Karl Gordon, Brent Groves, Leslie Hunt, Daniel Dale, Joannah Hinz, Fatemeh Tabatabaei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


We investigate the far-infrared (IR) dust emission for 20 local star forming galaxies from the Key Insights on Nearby Galaxies: A Far-IR Survey with Herschel (KINGFISH) sample. We model the far-IR/submillimeter spectral energy distribution (SED) using images from Spitzer Space Telescope and Herschel Space Observatory. We calculate the cold dust temperature (Tc ) and emissivity (β) on a pixel by pixel basis (where each pixel ranges from 0.1 to 3 kpc2) using a two-temperature modified blackbody fitting routine. Our fitting method allows us to investigate the resolved nature of temperature and emissivity variations by modeling from the galaxy centers to the outskirts (physical scales of ∼15-50 kpc, depending on the size of the galaxy). We fit each SED in two ways: (1) fit Tc and β simultaneously, (2) hold β constant and fit Tc . We compare Tc and β with star formation rates (calculated from L Hα and L 24 μm), the luminosity of the old stellar population (traced through L 3.6 μm), and the dust mass surface density (traced by 500 μm luminosity, L 500). We find a significant trend between SFR/L 500 and Tc , implying that the flux of hard UV photons relative to the amount of dust is significantly contributing to the heating of the cold, or diffuse, dust component. We also see a trend between L 3.6/L 500 and β, indicating that the old stellar population contributes to the heating at far-IR/submillimeter wavelengths. Finally, we find that when β is held constant, Tc exhibits a strongly decreasing radial trend, illustrating that the shape of the far-IR SED is changing radially through a galaxy, thus confirming on a sample almost double in size the trends observed in Galametz et al.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number130
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 10 2014


  • ISM
  • dust, extinction - galaxies
  • general - galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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