Volume 419, Number 2, May IV 2004
|Page(s)||501 - 516|
|Published online||03 May 2004|
Warm dust and aromatic bands as quantitative probes of star-formation activity *
Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, Postbus 9513, RA Leiden, The Netherlands e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA
3 CEA/DSM/DAPNIA/Service d'Astrophysique, CE Saclay, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France e-mail: email@example.com
4 Cornell University, Astronomy Department, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
5 Chercheur associé, Observatoire de Paris, LERMA, 75014 Paris, France e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Corresponding author: H. Roussel, email@example.com
Accepted: 23 February 2004
We combine samples of spiral galaxies and starburst systems observed with ISOCAM on board ISO to investigate the reliability of mid-infrared dust emission as a quantitative tracer of star formation activity. The total sample covers very diverse galactic environments and probes a much wider dynamic range in star formation rate density than previous similar studies. We find that both the monochromatic 15 μm continuum and the m emission constitute excellent indicators of the star formation rate as quantified by the Lyman continuum luminosity , within specified validity limits which are different for the two tracers. Normalized to projected surface area, the 15 μm continuum luminosity is directly proportional to over several orders of magnitude. Two regimes are distinguished from the relative offsets in the observed relationship: the proportionality factor increases by a factor of ≈5 between quiescent disks in spiral galaxies, and moderate to extreme star-forming environments in circumnuclear regions of spirals and in starburst systems. The transition occurs near and is interpreted as due to very small dust grains starting to dominate the emission at 15 μm over aromatic species above this threshold. The m luminosity per unit projected area is also directly proportional to the Lyman continuum luminosity, with a single conversion factor from the most quiescent objects included in the sample up to , where the relationship then flattens. The turnover is attributed to depletion of aromatic band carriers in the harsher conditions prevailing in extreme starburst environments. The observed relationships provide empirical calibrations useful for estimating star formation rates from mid-infrared observations, much less affected by extinction than optical and near-infrared tracers in deeply embedded regions and obscured starbursts, as well as for theoretical predictions from evolutionary synthesis models.
Key words: galaxies: ISM / galaxies: starburst / galaxies: stellar content / infrared: galaxies / infrared: ISM
© ESO, 2004
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