Volume 632, December 2019
|Number of page(s)||11|
|Published online||26 November 2019|
The fate of the interstellar medium in early-type galaxies
I. First direct measurement of the timescale of dust removal
Astronomical Observatory Institute, Faculty of Physics, Adam Mickiewicz University, ul. Słoneczna 36, 60-286 Poznań, Poland
2 SUPA (Scottish Universities Physics Alliance), Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh EH9 3HJ, UK
3 DARK, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Lyngbyvej 2, 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
4 National Radio Astronomy Observatory, PO Box 2, Green Bank, WV 24944, USA
5 Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Academia Sinica, Astronomy-Mathematics Building, AS/NTU, No. 1, Sec. 4, Roosevelt Road, Taipei 10617, Taiwan
6 Department of Physics & Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg Centre, 3400 N. Charles Str, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA
7 SUPA (Scottish Universities Physics Alliance), School of Physics & Astronomy, University of St Andrews, North Haugh, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9SS, UK
8 Division of Particle and Astrophysical Science, Nagoya University, Furo-Cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya 464-8602, Japan
9 Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (INAOE), Aptdo. Postal 51 y 216, 72000 Puebla, Pue., Mexico
10 Anton Pannekoek Institute, University of Amsterdam, Science Park 904, 1098 XH Amsterdam, The Netherlands
11 The University of Texas at Austin, 2515 Speedway Blvd Stop C1400, Austin, TX 78712, USA
Accepted: 10 October 2019
Context. An important aspect of quenching star formation is the removal of the cold interstellar medium (ISM; non-ionised gas and dust) from a galaxy. In addition, dust grains can be destroyed in a hot or turbulent medium. The adopted timescale of dust removal usually relies on uncertain theoretical estimates. It is tricky to track dust removal because the dust is constantly being replenished by consecutive generations of stars.
Aims. Our objective is to carry out an observational measurement of the timescale of dust removal.
Methods. We explored an approach to select galaxies that demonstrate detectable amounts of dust and cold ISM coupled with a low current dust production rate. Any decrease of the dust and gas content as a function of the age of such galaxies must, therefore, be attributed to processes governing ISM removal. We used a sample of the galaxies detected by Herschel in the far-infrared with visually assigned early-type morphology or spirals with red colours. We also obtained JCMT/SCUBA-2 observations for five of these galaxies.
Results. We discovered an exponential decline of the dust-to-stellar mass ratio with age, which we interpret as an evolutionary trend for the dust removal of these galaxies. For the first time, we have directly measured the dust removal timescale for such galaxies, with a result of τ = (2.5 ± 0.4) Gyr (the corresponding half-life time is (1.75 ± 0.25) Gyr). This quantity may be applied to models in which it must be assumed a priori and cannot be derived.
Conclusions. Any process which removes dust in these galaxies, such as dust grain destruction, cannot happen on shorter timescales. The timescale is comparable to the quenching timescales found in simulations for galaxies with similar stellar masses. The dust is likely of internal, not external origin. It was either formed in the past directly by supernovae (SNe) or from seeds produced by SNe, and with grain growth in the ISM contributing substantially to the dust mass accumulation.
Key words: dust / extinction / galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD / galaxies: evolution / galaxies: ISM / galaxies: star formation / infrared: galaxies
© ESO 2019
Current usage metrics show cumulative count of Article Views (full-text article views including HTML views, PDF and ePub downloads, according to the available data) and Abstracts Views on Vision4Press platform.
Data correspond to usage on the plateform after 2015. The current usage metrics is available 48-96 hours after online publication and is updated daily on week days.
Initial download of the metrics may take a while.