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Where is the Dust in Distant Galaxies?

17 Dec 2015, 16:00 UTC
Where is the Dust in Distant Galaxies?
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In a previous post we wrote about the morphology of a galaxy's star light. Most galaxies have matter that we can see in 3 forms: stars, gas, and dust. Figure 1: M51 at optical wavelengths of light. Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA).Figure 1 shows a picture of M51 at optical wavelengths of light. The yellow, red, and blue parts of the picture are the regions hosting M51's stars which are visible to us. Along the spiral arms we also see dark structures. The dark parts of the picture are the regions hosting M51's stars which are invisible to us --- the stars which are obscured by dust.Dust grains in M51 absorb light from these stars and reemit that light at infrared wavelengths. Figure 2 shows a picture of M51 at an infrared wavelength of light. The spiral arms in the infrared picture line up with the dark structure in the optical picture. We know where the dust is in M51. What about the dust in other galaxies? Figure 2: M51 at an infrared wavelength of light. Credit: IRSA.As we study galaxies that are further and further away from our own, we lose information on ...

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