Determining the extragalactic extinction law with SALT

Ido Finkelman*, Noah Brosch, Alexei Y. Kniazev, David A.H. Buckley, Darragh O'Donoghue, Yas Hashimoto, Nicola Loaring, Encarni Romero-Colmenero, Martin Still, Ramotholo Sefako, Petri Väisänen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


We present CCD imaging observations of early-type galaxies with dark lanes obtained with the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) during its performance-verification phase. The observations were performed in six spectral bands that span the spectral range from the near-ultraviolet atmospheric cut-off to the near-infrared. We derive the extinction law by the extragalactic dust in the dark lanes in the spectral range 1.11 < λ-1 < 2.94 μm-1 by fitting model galaxies to the unextinguished parts of the image, and subtracting from these the actual images. This procedure allows the derivation, with reasonably high signal-to-noise ratio, of the extinction in each spectral band we used for each resolution element of the image. We also introduce an alternative method to derive the extinction values by comparing various colour-index maps under the assumption of negligible intrinsic colour gradients in these galaxies. We than compare the results obtained using these two methods. We compare the total-to-selective extinction derived for these galaxies with previously obtained results and with similar extinction values of Milky Way dust to derive conclusions about the properties of extragalactic dust in different objects and conditions. We find that the extinction curves run parallel to the Galactic extinction curve, which implies that the properties of dust in the extragalactic environment are similar to those of the Milky Way, despite our original expectations. The ratio of the total V-band extinction to the selective extinction between the V and B bands is derived for each galaxy with an average of 2.82 ± 0.38, compared to a canonical value of 3.1 for the Milky Way. The similar values imply that galaxies with well-defined dark lanes have characteristic dust grain sizes similar to those of Galactic dust. We use total optical extinction values to estimate the dust mass for each galaxy, compare these with dust masses derived from IRAS measurements, and find them in the range 104-107 M.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-984
Number of pages16
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Nov
Externally publishedYes


  • Dust, extinction
  • Galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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