Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 476, 1235-1242 (2007/12-4)
Carbonaceous dust grains in luminous infrared galaxies. Spitzer/IRS reveals a-C:H as an abundant and ubiquitous ISM component.
DARTOIS E. and MUNOZ-CARO G.M.
Abstract (from CDS):
The available ground- and space-based spectroscopic capabilities of observatories now allow us to extend Galactic interstellar medium composition studies to extragalactic cases. Absorptions in the mid-infrared shows evidence for silicate and carbonaceous grains in other galaxies. A set of extragalactic spectra of luminous infrared galaxies (LIRGs) has been extracted from the Spitzer database and compared to the spectra of laboratory-produced interstellar carbon dust analogues. These highly obscured lines-of-sight display the characteristic absorptions at ∼6.85 and 7.25µm of the CH3/CH2 deformation modes of hydrogenated amorphous carbon (a-C:H) grains. They are compared to laboratory-produced a-C:H and imply carbon atom column densities in the solid phase exceeding ∼1018cm–2. These observations further demonstrate the ubiquitousness of a-C:H in the diffuse interstellar medium (DISM) of galaxies, for a long time almost only observed in the Milky-Way ISM lines-of-sights. Whereas PAH emission lines trace the re-processing of energetic young stellar radiation, the observed a-C:H features underline the existence of large masses of amorphous carbon dust in (extra-)galactic dust budgets. The difficulty in observing such an interstellar component in the mid-infrared is linked to its low absorption contrast (AV/τ(6.85)≃625±40) for the strongest band, which therefore requires high column densities to detect a-C:H grains. Such carbon grains might be present but spectroscopically hidden in many other galactic environments.