Irene Shivaei, Mariska Kriek, Naveen A. Reddy, Alice E. Shapley, Guillermo Barro, Charlie Conroy, Alison L. Coil, William R. Freeman, Bahram Mobasher, Brian Siana, Ryan Sanders, Sedona H. Price, Mojegan Azadi, Imad Pasha, Hanae Inami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


We present the first direct comparison between Balmer line and panchromatic spectral energy distribution (SED)-based star formation rates (SFRs) for z ∼ 2 galaxies. For this comparison, we used 17 star-forming galaxies selected from the MOSFIRE Deep Evolution Field (MOSDEF) survey, with 3σ detections for Hα and at least two IR bands (Spitzer/MIPS 24 μm and Herschel/PACS 100 and 160 μm, and in some cases Herschel/SPIRE 250, 350, and 500 μm). The galaxies have total IR (8-1000 μm) luminosities of ∼ 1011.4-1012.4 L and SFRs of ∼30-250 M yr-1. We fit the UV-to-far-IR SEDs with flexible stellar population synthesis (FSPS) models - which include both stellar and dust emission - and compare the inferred SFRs with the SFR(Hα, Hβ) values corrected for dust attenuation using Balmer decrements. The two SFRs agree with a scatter of 0.17 dex. Our results imply that the Balmer decrement accurately predicts the obscuration of the nebular lines and can be used to robustly calculate SFRs for star-forming galaxies at z ∼ 2 with SFRs up to ∼ 200 M yr-1. We also use our data to assess SFR indicators based on modeling the UV-to-mid-IR SEDs or by adding SFR(UV) and SFR(IR), for which the latter is based on the mid-IR only or on the full IR SED. All these SFRs show a poorer agreement with SFR(Hα, Hβ) and in some cases large systematic biases are observed. Finally, we show that the SFR and dust attenuation derived from the UV-to-near-IR SED alone are unbiased when assuming a delayed exponentially declining star formation history.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL23
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I.S. thanks Mostafa Khezri and Ali Khostovan for useful discussions and feedback on the manuscript. The authors thank Mark Dickinson for providing part of the IR data. I.S. and N.A. R. are supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship DGE-1326120 and an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, respectively. M.K. acknowledges support from NASA grant NNX14AR86G. The MOSDEF survey is funded by NSF AAG collaborative grants AST-1312780, 1312547, 1312764, and 1313171 and archival grant AR-13907, provided by NASA through a grant from the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


  • dust, extinction
  • galaxies: general
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • galaxies: star formation
  • infrared: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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