Dust lanes in backlit galaxies: first results from the STARSMOG survey

William C. Keel, Sarah Bradford, Benne Holwerda, Christopher Conselice, Ivan Baldry, Jonathan Bland-Hawthorn, Simon P. Driver, Loretta Dunne, Jochen Liske, Aaron Robotham, Richard Tuffs

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


STARSMOG is an HST WFC3 snapshot survey of dust attenuation in overlapping backlit galaxies, planned to span the range of morphological type and luminosity of dust-rich galaxies. The target list came from the Galaxy Zoo and GAMA catalogs, imposing a minimum redshift difference to guarantee large line-of-sight separations, virtually eliminating scattering corrections and avoiding potentially distorted interacting systems. These include the first flocculent spirals studied with the occulting-galaxy approach. We present results from the geometrically most favorable subset of 9 pairs from the 54 observed STARSMOG systems. The data quality and intensity of background light let us map dust features with attenuations of only a few per cent in the red F606W band. Organized dust lanes show sharp outer boundaries in disks, and are absent in galaxies of late Hubble type. Many Sb-Sc disks show a dusty web of criss-crossing lanes, some nearly at right angles to the overall spiral pattern. Particularly favorable cases constraint the scale height of starlight in the foreground disks, through comparison of the light loss in regions with and without background light. The covering fraction of dust at various attenuation levels is consistent between barred and nonbarred spirals, although dust features may be more concentrated in azimuth when a bar is present (and concentrated in an annulus when a stellar resonance ring is seen). Together with our previous data on much more limited samples or at lower resolution,these results add to a picture where galaxies of similar morphology may have quite different attenuation patterns with radius for both arm and interarm dust.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


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