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Connecting the Interstellar Gas and Dust Properties in Distant Galaxies Using Quasar Absorption Systems

  • Monique C. Aller (a1) (a2), Varsha P. Kulkarni (a2), Donald G. York (a3), Daniel E. Welty (a3), Giovanni Vladilo (a4), Debopam Som (a2), Kyle Lackey (a2), Eli Dwek (a5), Nassim Beiranvand (a2) and Sean Morrison (a2)...

Abstract

Gas and dust grains are fundamental components of the interstellar medium and significantly impact many of the physical processes driving galaxy evolution, such as star-formation, and the heating, cooling, and ionization of the interstellar material. Quasar absorption systems (QASs), which trace intervening galaxies along the sightlines to luminous quasars, provide a valuable tool to directly study the properties of the interstellar gas and dust in distant, normal galaxies. We have established the presence of silicate dust grains in at least some gas-rich QASs, and find that they exist at higher optical depths than expected for diffuse gas in the Milky Way. Differences in the absorption feature shapes additionally suggest variations in the silicate dust grain properties, such as in the level of grain crystallinity, from system-to-system. We present results from a study of the gas and dust properties of QASs with adequate archival IR data to probe the silicate dust grain properties. We discuss our measurements of the strengths of the 10 and 18 μm silicate dust absorption features in the QASs, and constraints on the grain properties (e.g., composition, shape, crystallinity) based on fitted silicate profile templates. We investigate correlations between silicate dust abundance, reddening, and gas metallicity, which will yield valuable insights into the history of star formation and chemical enrichment in galaxies.

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References

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Aller, M.C., Kulkarni, V.P., York, D.G., Vladilo, G., Welty, D.E., & Som, D. 2012, ApJ, 748, 19
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