EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 482, Number 1, April IV 2008
Page(s) 229 - 236
Section Interstellar and circumstellar matter
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20078896
Published online 04 March 2008

A&A 482, 229-236 (2008)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20078896

Near-infrared reddening of extra-galactic giant molecular clouds in a face-on geometry

J. Kainulainen1, 2, M. Juvela2, and J. Alves3

1  European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-Str. 2, 85748 Garching bei München, Germany
    e-mail: jouni.kainulainen@helsinki.fi
2  Observatory, PO Box 14, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
3  Calar Alto Observatory, Centro Astronómico Hispano, Alemán, C/q Jesús Durbán Remón 2-2, 04004 Almeria, Spain

(Received 22 October 2007 / Accepted 8 February 2008)

Aims. We describe the near-infrared reddening signature of giant molecular clouds (GMCs) in external galaxies. In particular, we examine the EJ-H and EH-K color excesses and the effective extinction law observed in discrete GMC regions. We also study the effect of the relative scale height of the GMC distribution to the color excesses, and to the observed mass function of GMCs when the masses are derived using color excess as a linear estimator of mass.
Methods. We performed Monte Carlo radiative transfer simulations with 3D models of stellar radiation and clumpy dust distributions, resembling a face-on geometry. The scattered light is included in the models, and near-infrared color maps were calculated from the simulated data. We performed the simulations with different scale heights of GMCs and compared the color excesses and attenuation of light in different geometries. We extracted GMCs from the simulated color maps and compared the mass functions to the input mass functions.
Results. The effective near-infrared reddening law, i.e. the ratio EJ-H/EH-K, has a value close to unity in GMC regions. The ratio depends significantly on the relative scale height of GMCs, $\xi$, and for $\xi$ values 0.1...0.75, we find the typical ratios of 0.6...1.1. The effective extinction law turns out to be very flat in GMC regions. We find the ratios of apparent extinctions of $A_{H}^{\rm a}/A_{K}^{\rm a}$ = 1.35...1.55 and $A_{J}^{\rm a}/A_{H}^{\rm a}$ = 1.15. The effect of the scattered flux on the effective reddening law, as well as on the effective extinction law, is significant. Regarding the GMC mass function, we find no correlation between the input and observed slopes of the mass functions. Instead, the observed slope reflects the parameter $\xi$ and the dynamical range of the mass function. As the observed slope depends on the geometric parameters, which are not known, it is not possible to constrain the slope of the mass function using this technique. We estimate that only a fraction of 10...20% of the total mass of GMCs is recovered, if the observed color excess values are transformed to masses using the Galactic reddening law. In the case of individual clouds, the fraction can vary between ~0...50%.

Key words: radiative transfer -- scattering -- ISM: clouds -- galaxies: ISM -- ISM: dust, extinction

© ESO 2008