Far-reaching dust distribution in galaxy discs

Matthew W L Smith, Stephen A. Eales, Ilse De Looze, Maarten Baes, George J. Bendo, Simone Bianchi, Médéric Boquien, Alessandro Boselli, Veronique Buat, Laure Ciesla, Marcel Clemens, David L. Clements, Asantha R. Cooray, Luca Cortese, Jonathan I. Davies, Jacopo Fritz, Haley L. Gomez, Thomas M. Hughes, Oskar L. Karczewski, Nanyao LuSeb J. Oliver, Aurélie Remy-Ruyer, Luigi Spinoglio, Sebastien Viaene

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    In most studies of dust in galaxies, dust is only detected from its emission to approximately the optical radius of the galaxy. By combining the signal of 110 spiral galaxies observed as part of the Herschel Reference Survey, we are able to improve our sensitivity by an order of magnitude over that for a single object. Here we report the direct detection of dust from its emission that extends out to at least twice the optical radius. We find that the distribution of dust is consistent with an exponential at all radii with a gradient of ~-1.7 dex R -1 25 Our dust temperature declines linearly from ~25 K in the centre to 15 K at R-1 25 from where it remains constant out to ~2.0 R25 The surface density of dust declines with radius at a similar rate to the surface density of stars but more slowly than the surface density of the star-formation rate. Studies based on dust extinction and reddening of high-redshift quasars have concluded that there are substantial amounts of dust in intergalactic space. By combining our results with the number counts and angular correlation function from the SDSS, we show that with Milky Way-type dust we can explain the reddening of the quasars by the dust within galactic discs alone. Given the uncertainties in the properties of any intergalactic dust, we cannot rule out its existence, but our results show that statistical investigations of the dust in galactic haloes that use the reddening of high-redshift objects must take account of the dust in galactic discs.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberstw1611
    Pages (from-to)331-344
    Number of pages14
    JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
    Issue number1
    Early online date6 Jul 2016
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2016


    • Galaxies
    • ISM
    • ISM-galaxies
    • spiral-submillimetre


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