Unravelling the dust attenuation scaling relations and their evolution

Gabriel Maheson, Roberto Maiolino, Mirko Curti, Ryan Sanders, Sandro Tacchella, Lester Sandles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We explore the dependence of dust attenuation, as traced by the Balmer decrement, on galactic properties by using a large sample of Sloan Digital Sky Survey spectra. We use both partial correlation coefficients and random forest analysis to distinguish those galactic parameters that directly and primarily drive dust attenuation in galaxies, from parameters that are only indirectly correlated through secondary dependencies. We find that, once galactic inclination is controlled for, dust attenuation depends primarily on stellar mass, followed by metallicity and velocity dispersion. Once the dependence on these quantities is taken into account, there is no dependence on the star formation rate. While the dependence on stellar mass and metallicity was expected based on simple analytical equations for the interstellar medium, the dependence on velocity dispersion was not predicted, and we discuss possible scenarios to explain it. We identify a projection of this multidimensional parameters space which minimizes the dispersion in terms of the Balmer decrement and which encapsulates the primary and secondary dependences of the Balmer decrement into a single parameter defined as the reduced mass μ = log M + 3.67[O/H] + 2.96log (σv/100 km s-1). We show that the dependence of the Balmer decrement on this single parameter also holds at high redshift, suggesting that the processes regulating dust production and distribution do not change significantly through cosmic epochs at least out to z ∼2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8213-8233
Number of pages21
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Astronomical Society.


  • H ii regions
  • ISM: structure
  • radiative transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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