What drives the Balmer extinction sequence in spiral galaxies?
Clues from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
LUTH, Observatoire de Meudon, 5 place Jules Janssen, 92195 Meudon Cedex, France
2 Departamento de Astronomia, Instituto de Astronomia, Geofísica e Ciências Atmosféricas da USP, Rua do Matão 1226, 05508-090, São Paulo, Brazil
3 N. Copernicus Astronomical Center, Rabiańska 8, 87-100 Toruń, Poland
Corresponding author: G. Stasińska, firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 3 March 2004
Using spectra of normal emission line galaxies from the First Data Release of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) we have investigated the relations between the extinction as derived from the Hα/Hβ emission line ratio and various global parameters of the galaxies. Our main findings are that: 1) is linked with the galaxy spectral type and colour, decreasing from early- to late-type spirals; 2) increases with increasing metallicity; 3) is larger in galaxies with an older stellar population; 4) is larger for more luminous galaxies; 5) The extinction of the stellar light is correlated with both the extinction of the nebular light and the intrinsic galaxy colours. We propose phenomenological interpretations of our empirical results. We have also cross-correlated our sample of SDSS galaxies with the IRAS data base. Due to the lower redshift limit of our sample and to the detection limit of IRAS, such a procedure selected only luminous infrared galaxies. We found that correlations that were shown by other authors to occur between optical and infrared properties of galaxies disappear when restricted the sample to luminous infrared galaxies. We also found that the optical properties of the luminous infrared galaxies in our SDSS sample are very similar to those of our entire sample of SDSS galaxies. This may be explained by the IRAS luminosity of the galaxies originating in the regions that formed massive stars less than 1 Myr ago, while the opacity of galaxies as derived from the Hα/Hβ emission line ratio is due to diffuse dust. We show some implications of our empirical results for the determination of global star formation rates and total stellar masses in normal galaxies.
Key words: galaxies: spiral / galaxies: abundances / galaxies: evolution / galaxies: ISM / galaxies: stellar content / ISM: dust, extinction
© ESO, 2004