The MOSDEF Survey: The Nature of Mid-infrared Excess Galaxies and a Comparison of IR and UV Star Formation Tracers at z ∼ 2

Mojegan Azadi, Alison Coil, James Aird, Irene Shivaei, Naveen Reddy, Alice Shapley, Mariska Kriek, William R. Freeman, Gene C.K. Leung, Bahram Mobasher, Sedona H. Price, Ryan L. Sanders, Brian Siana, Tom Zick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


We present an analysis using the MOSFIRE Deep Evolution Field (MOSDEF) survey on the nature of "MIR-excess" galaxies, which have star formation rates (SFRs) inferred from mid-infrared (MIR) data that are substantially elevated relative to those estimated from dust-corrected UV data. We use a sample of ∼200 galaxies and active galactic nuclei (AGNs) at 1.40 < z < 2.61 with 24 μm detections (rest-frame 8 μm) from MIPS/Spitzer. We find that the identification of MIR-excess galaxies strongly depends on the methodologies used to estimate IR luminosity (L1R) and to correct the UV light for dust attenuation. We find that extrapolations of the SFR from the observed 24 μm flux, using luminosity-dependent templates based on local galaxies, substantially overestimate in z ∼ 2 galaxies. By including Herschel observations and using a stellar-mass-dependent, luminosity-independent L1R, we obtain more reliable estimates of the SFR and a lower fraction of MIR-excess galaxies. Once stellar-mass selection biases are taken into account, we identify ∼24% of our galaxies as MIR excess. However, is not elevated in MIR-excess galaxies compared to MIR-normal galaxies, indicating that the intrinsic fraction of MIR excess may be lower. Using X-ray-, IR-, and optically selected AGNs in MOSDEF, we do not find a higher prevalence for AGNs in MIR-excess galaxies relative to MIR-normal galaxies. A stacking analysis of X-ray-undetected galaxies does not reveal a harder spectrum in MIR-excess galaxies relative to MIR-normal galaxies. Our analysis indicates that AGN activity does not contribute substantially to the MIR excess and instead implies that it is likely due to the enhanced polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon emission.

Original languageEnglish
Article number63
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 10 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


  • galaxies: active
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • galaxies: nuclei
  • galaxies: star formation
  • infrared: galaxies
  • ultraviolet: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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