Volume 388, Number 2, June III 2002
|Page(s)||446 - 457|
|Section||Cosmology (including clusters of galaxies)|
|Published online||31 May 2002|
Mapping the submillimeter spiral wave in NGC 6946
Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Wales, PO Box 913, Cardiff CF2 3YB, UK
2 ESO, Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 2, 85748 Garching bei Muenchen, Germany
3 Cavendish Radio Laboratory, Madingley Road, Cambridge, UK
4 LERMA, Observatoire de Paris, 61 avenue de l'Observatoire, 75014 Paris, France
Corresponding author: P. B. Alton, firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 4 April 2002
We have analysed SCUBA m images of the (near) face-on spiral galaxy NGC 6946, paying particular attention to the subtraction of sky signal. A comparison with both 21 cm HI and 12CO(2–1) intensity maps reveals a tight correlation between dust thermal emission and molecular gas at the kiloparsec level. By means of a Monte Carlo radiative transfer model, we convert a colour image of NGC 6946 into a map of visual optical depth. The model yields maximum opacities since we assume that any increase in colour, with respect to the disk edge, is attributable solely to extinction by dust. The resultant map of visual optical depth relates well to the distribution of neutral gas (HI+H2) and implies a global gas-to-dust ratio of 90 (this value is a lower limit). There is no significant radial variation of this ratio: this can be understood, since the gas content is dominated by far by the molecular gas. The latter is estimated through the CO emission tracer, which is itself dependent on metallicity, similarly to dust emission. In the absence of a more objective tracer, it is not possible to derive the true gas-to-dust ratio. By comparing the radial profile of our visual optical depth map with that of the SCUBA image, we infer an emissivity (dust absorption coefficient) at m that is 3 times lower than the value measured by COBE in the Milky Way, and 9 times lower than in NGC 891. We view this very much as a lower estimate, however, given our initial assumptions in deriving the visual opacity, and the possibility of underestimating the large-scale submm emission, the effect being more severe for the nearly face-on orientation of NGC 6946. A decomposition of the spiral structure half way out along the disk of NGC 6946 suggests an interarm optical depth of between 1 and 2. These surprisingly high values represent 40–80% of the visual opacity that we measure for the arm region.
Key words: galaxies: general / galaxies: individual: NGC 6946 / galaxies: ISM / galaxies: photometry / galaxies: spiral / radio continuum: galaxies
© ESO, 2002
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