Dust mapping of spiral galaxy disks from the Hubble starsmog survey

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University of Alabama Libraries

Dust in spiral galaxy disks plays an important role in observations through its interaction with starlight. While arguments have been made in favor of completely opaque spiral disks as a result of the dust (see Valentijn, 1990), most subsequent studies agree that spiral galaxies include both optically thick and optically thin regions. Using the occulting-galaxies technique introduced by White & Keel (1992), we created transmission maps of nine partially overlapped galaxy systems taken from the STARSMOG (STarlight Absorption Reduction through a Survey of Multiple Occulting Galaxies) catalog to probe the optical depth in regions of backlit dust. The measurements of all nine targets show a wide range of opacities, and therefore none of them can be definitively classified as either "optically thick" or "optically thin". In the analysis of the transmission maps of predominantly highly inclined systems, we noticed a distinct edge to the dust structure beyond which no dust was present in the foreground galaxy disk. This radius varied amongst systems but was distinct enough to be measured for three of the systems. The transmission maps also reveal a web-like pattern to the dust structure in some galaxy disks. Four of the targets showed dust structure which not only followed the pitch angle of the spiral arms, but also crossed at other various angles. This web-like pattern was only observed in systems where the foreground galaxy was of Hubble type SBc/Sc/Sbc. While there appears to be no real trend in the statistics of transmission through backlit dust with respect to stellar mass of the galaxies, there does appear to be a correlation with respect to star formation rates. In this nine-system sample, the targets with the least star formation appear more opaque. By continuing this study for the rest of the STARSMOG targets, we will be able to determine how representative this sample is of the entire target set.

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Astronomy, Astrophysics, Physics