Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 388, 446-457 (2002/6-3)
Mapping the submillimeter spiral wave in NGC 6946.
ALTON P.B., BIANCHI S., RICHER J., PIERCE-PRICE D. and COMBES F.
Abstract (from CDS):
We have analysed SCUBA 850 µm images of the (near) face-on spiral galaxy NGC 6946, paying particular attention to the subtraction of sky signal. A comparison with both 21 cm HI and 12CO(2-1) intensity maps reveals a tight correlation between dust thermal emission and molecular gas at the kiloparsec level. By means of a Monte Carlo radiative transfer model, we convert a B-K colour image of NGC 6946 into a map of visual optical depth. The model yields maximum opacities since we assume that any increase in B-K colour, with respect to the disk edge, is attributable solely to extinction by dust. The resultant map of visual optical depth relates well to the distribution of neutral gas (HI+H2) and implies a global gas-to-dust ratio of 90 (this value is a lower limit). There is no significant radial variation of this ratio: this can be understood, since the gas content is dominated by far by the molecular gas. The latter is estimated through the CO emission tracer, which is itself dependent on metallicity, similarly to dust emission. In the absence of a more objective tracer, it is not possible to derive the true gas-to-dust ratio. By comparing the radial profile of our visual optical depth map with that of the SCUBA image, we infer an emissivity (dust absorption coefficient) at 850µm that is 3 times lower than the value measured by COBE in the Milky Way, and 9 times lower than in NGC 891. We view this very much as a lower estimate, however, given our initial assumptions in deriving the visual opacity, and the possibility of underestimating the large-scale submm emission, the effect being more severe for the nearly face-on orientation of NGC 6946. A decomposition of the spiral structure half way out along the disk of NGC 6946 suggests an interarm optical depth of between 1 and 2. These surprisingly high values represent 40-80% of the visual opacity that we measure for the arm region.
galaxies: general - galaxies: individual: NGC 6946 - galaxies: ISM - galaxies: photometry - galaxies: spiral - radio continuum: galaxies