Dust attenuation, dust content and geometry of star-forming galaxies

Junkai Zhang, Stijn Wuyts, Sam E. Cutler, Lamiya A. Mowla, Gabriel B. Brammer, Ivelina G. Momcheva, Katherine E. Whitaker, Pieter van Dokkum, Natascha M. Förster Schreiber, Erica J. Nelson, Patricia Schady, Carolin Villforth, David Wake, Arjen van der Wel

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We analyse the joint distribution of dust attenuation and projected axis ratios, together with galaxy size and surface brightness profile information, to infer lessons on the dust content and star/dust geometry within star-forming galaxies at 0 < z < 2.5. To do so, we make use of large observational data sets from KiDS + VIKING + HSC-SSP and extend the analysis out to redshift z = 2.5 using the HST surveys CANDELS and 3D-DASH. We construct suites of SKIRT radiative transfer models for idealized galaxies observed under random viewing angles with the aim of reproducing the aforementioned distributions, including the level and inclination dependence of dust attenuation. We find that attenuation-based dust mass estimates are at odds with constraints from far-infrared observations, especially at higher redshifts, when assuming smooth star and dust geometries of equal extent. We demonstrate that UV-to-near-IR and far-infrared constraints can be reconciled by invoking clumpier dust geometries for galaxies at higher redshifts and/or very compact dust cores. We discuss implications for the significant wavelength- and redshift-dependent differences between half-light and half-mass radii that result from spatially varying dust columns within especially massive star-forming galaxies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4128-4147
Number of pages20
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date27 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) collaboration includes the astronomical communities of Japan and Taiwan, and Princeton University. The HSC instrumentation and software were developed by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU), the University of Tokyo, the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK), the Academia Sinica Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Taiwan (ASIAA), and Princeton University. Funding was contributed by the FIRST program from the Japanese Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), the Toray Science Foundation, NAOJ, Kavli IPMU, KEK, ASIAA, and Princeton University.

Funding Information:
We thank the authors of SKIRT, Maarten Baes and Peter Camps, for making their radiative transfer code publicly available. JZ gratefully acknowledges support from the China Scholarship Council (grant no. 201904910703). SW acknowledges support from the Chinese Academy of Sciences President’s International Fellowship Initiative (grant no.2022VMB0004). Support from NASA STScI grants HST-GO-16259, and HST-GO-16443 is gratefully acknowledged.

Funding Information:
The KiDS production team acknowledges support from: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, ERC, NOVA and NWO-M grants; Target; the University shed by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Astronomical Society.


  • galaxies: ISM
  • galaxies: disc
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: general
  • galaxies: stellar content
  • galaxies: structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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