THE MOSDEF SURVEY: MEASUREMENTS OF BALMER DECREMENTS AND THE DUST ATTENUATION CURVE AT REDSHIFTS z ∼ 1.4-2.6

Naveen A. Reddy, Mariska Kriek, Alice E. Shapley, William R. Freeman, Brian Siana, Alison L. Coil, Bahram Mobasher, Sedona H. Price, Ryan L. Sanders, Irene Shivaei

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281 Scopus citations

Abstract

We present results on the dust attenuation curve of z ∼ 2 galaxies using early observations from the MOSFIRE Deep Evolution Field survey. Our sample consists of 224 star-forming galaxies with zspec = 1.36-2.59 and high signal-to-noise ratio measurements of Hα and Hβ obtained with Keck/MOSFIRE. We construct composite spectral energy distributions (SEDs) of galaxies in bins of Balmer decrement to measure the attenuation curve. We find a curve that is similar to the SMC extinction curve at λ ≳ 2500 Å. At shorter wavelengths, the shape is identical to that of the Calzetti et al. relation, but with a lower normalization. Hence, the new attenuation curve results in star formation rates (SFRs) that are ≈20% lower, and stellar masses that are Δ log(M∗/M) ≃ 0.16 dex lower, than those obtained with the Calzetti relation. We find that the difference in the total attenuation of the ionized gas and stellar continuum correlates strongly with SFR, such that for dust-corrected SFRs ≳ 20 Mȯ yr-1, assuming a Chabrier initial mass function, the nebular emission lines suffer an increasing degree of obscuration relative to the continuum. A simple model that can account for these trends is one in which the UV through optical stellar continuum is dominated by a population of less-reddened stars, while the nebular line and bolometric luminosities become increasingly dominated by dustier stellar populations for galaxies with large SFRs, as a result of the increased dust enrichment that accompanies such galaxies. Consequently, UV- and SED-based SFRs may underestimate the total SFR at even modest levels of ≈20 Mȯ yr-1.

Original languageEnglish
Article number259
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume806
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 20 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Dust, extinction
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: high-redshift
  • Galaxies: star formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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