Interstellar dust models: Extinction, absorption and emission

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

9 Scopus citations


The observational constraints on interstellar dust are sum- marized. A dust model, consisting of a mixture of amorphous silicate, graphite, and PAH material that reproduces the observed interstellar extinction, is described. It is used to calculate the infrared emission expected when such dust is heated by radiation with the spectrum of interstellar starlight with various intensities. By adopting a suitable size distribution for the smallest carbonaceous grains (PAHs), and a distribution of starlight intensities, one can reproduce the observed global emission spectrum of galaxies. This allows the total dust mass, and the PAH abundance, to be estimated for any galaxy with a spectral energy distribution measured by the IRAC and MIPS cameras on Spitzer Space Telescope. For the Spitzer Infrared Nearby Galaxies Survey (SINGS) sample, galaxies with metallicities Z > 0.3 Z⊙ tend to have a major fraction of their refractory elements in dust grains, just as in the Milky Way. For lower metallicity galaxies with extended H I envelopes, the overall dust-to-metals ratio remains uncertain. The PAH abundance index qPAH (the fraction of the total dust mass in PAH particles with Nc < 103 C atoms) is dependent on metallicity: galaxies with Z< 0.3 Z⊙; have median QPAH = 1.1%, whereas galaxies with Z > 0.3 Z⊙ have median qPA H= 3.5%. The reasons for the pronounced dependence of qPAH on metallicity remain unclear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInterstellar Dust from Astronomical Observations to Fundamental Studies
EditorsF. Boulanger, C. Joblin, S. Madden
Number of pages24
StatePublished - 2009

Publication series

NameEAS Publications Series
ISSN (Print)1633-4760
ISSN (Electronic)1638-1963

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • General Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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