Published April 22, 2015 | Version v1
Thesis Open

On the Origins of Cosmic Dust and the Evolution of Nearby Galaxies with the Herschel Space Observatory

  • 1. Cardiff University


  • 1. Cardiff University


Using multiwavelength observations, centred around the unique far-infrared and submillimetre window provided by the Herschel Space Observatory, this thesis investigates the origins and evolution of cosmic dust in the local Universe – by examining individual sources of dust in our own galaxy, and by studying dust in nearby galaxies. I search Herschel observations of the remnants of Kepler’s (SN1604) and Tycho’s (SN1572) supernovæ, both Type-Ia explosions, for evidence of dust creation by these events. Being the only Type-Ia supernovæ known to have occurred in our Galaxy within the past 1,000 years, these remnants are the only ones both close enough to resolve, and young enough that they are dominated by their ejecta dynamics. There is no indication of any recently manufactured dust associated with either supernova remnant. It therefore appears that Type-Ia supernovæ do not contribute significantly to the dust budgets of galaxies. The Crab Nebula, the result of a Type-II supernova (SN1054), is also investigated using Herschel and multiwavelength data. After accounting for other sources of emission, a temperature of Td = 63.1 K and mass of Md = 0.21 M is derived for the Crab Nebula’s dust component. I create a map of the distribution of dust in the Crab Nebula, the first of its kind, by means of a resolved component separation, revealing that the dust is located in the dense filamentary ejecta. We can be confident that this dust will survive in the long term, and be injected into the galactic dust budget. This is the first detection of manufactured supernova dust for which this can be said. Next I use the Herschel-ATLAS to assemble HAPLESS: the Herschel- ATLAS Phase-1 Limited Extent Spatial Sample – a blind, volume-limited, dust- selected sample of nearby galaxies. The majority of this sample is made up of curious very blue galaxies. Often irregular and/or flocculent in morphology, with extremely blue UV-NIR colours, these galaxies appear to be prominent in the local dusty universe. In the absence of reliable photometry for the HAPLESS galaxies, I describe the function and testing of a purpose-built photometric pipeline – CAAPR: Chris’ Adequate Aperture Photometry Routine. The photometry conducted with CAAPR exhibits flux greater by factors of, on average, 1.6 in the FUV and 1.4 in r-band, relative to the previously-available photometry. In comparison to other surveys of dust in local galaxies, the HAPLESS systems show a strong propensity towards very late morphological types and extremely blue FUV-Ks colours. The dust in the HAPLESS galaxies appears to be very cold, with a median temperature of 14.6 K. They are also exceptionally dust rich, with a median dust mass of 5.3 × 106 M\(_{\odot}\) , and a median Md/M\(_{\star}\) of 4.4×10-3 – greater by a factor of 1.8–3.7 than that seen in other local surveys. The curious very blue HAPLESS galaxies, whilst accounting for only 6% of the stellar mass in our sample, contain over 35% of the dust mass. I show that the more dust-rich a galaxy (as defined by Md/M\(_{\star}\)), the smaller the fraction of its UV luminosity that suffers dust absorption – this effect is observed to be particularly dramatic in the case of the curious very blue objects. Either the emissivity or geometry of the dust in these systems must be highly unusual. HAPLESS suggests a dust mass volume density of the local universe of (3.7 ± 0.7) × 105 M\(_{\odot}\) Mpc-3; the largest value reported to date. The HAPLESS 250 μm luminosity function is in good agreement with surveys of far larger volumes, suggesting that we do not sample an over-dense region of space. The HAPLESS galaxies are extraordinarily gas rich; the median HAPLESS gas fraction is 0.52, and 19% of the sample have gas fractions >0.8. The median HAPLESS gas-to-dust ratio is ≈260, 2–3 times larger than in other local surveys. The very blue galaxies of the sample are found to be particularly gas rich; a chemical and dust evolution model indicates that they are at an early stage of converting their gas into stars. A dust-selected survey such as H-ATLAS is a particularly efficient way of identifying young systems of this kind, which should therefore provide valuable insights into the chemical evolution of young galaxies.


Research funded by the STFC Doctoral Training Grant scheme.



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