Journal Article

Dust in the early Universe: evidence for non-stellar dust production or observational errors?

Lars Mattsson

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 414, issue 1, pages 781-791
Published in print June 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online June 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Dust in the early Universe: evidence for non-stellar dust production or observational errors?

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Observations have revealed unexpectedly large amounts of dust in high-redshift galaxies and its origin is still much debated. Valiante et al. suggested the net stellar dust production of the quasar host galaxy SDSS J1148+5251 may be sufficient to explain the large dust mass detected in this galaxy, albeit under some very special assumptions (e.g. ‘closed-box’ evolution and a rather high gas mass). Here it is shown that since accretion of essentially pristine material may lower the efficiency of dust formation significantly, and the observationally derived dust-to-gas ratios for these high-redshift galaxies are remarkably high, stellar dust production is likely insufficient. A model including metallicity-dependent, non-stellar dust formation (‘secondary dust’) is presented. The required contribution from this non-stellar dust component appears too large, however. If all observational constraints are to be met, the resultant dust-to-metals ratio is close to unity, which means that almost all interstellar metals exist in the form of dust. This is a very unlikely situation and suggests the large dust-to-gas ratios at high redshifts may be due to observational uncertainties and/or incorrect calibration of conversion factors for gas and dust tracers.

Keywords: stars: AGB and post-AGB; supernovae: general; dust, extinction; galaxies: evolution; galaxies: high-redshift; quasars: general; quasars: individual: SDSS J1148+5251; galaxies: starburst

Journal Article.  8409 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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