The mid-infrared spectra of normal galaxies

G. Helou, Nanyao Y. Lu, M. W. Werner, S. Malhotra, N. Silbermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


The mid-infrared spectra (2.5-5 and 5.7-11.6 μn) obtained by ISOPHOT reveal the interstellar medium emission from galaxies powered by star formation to be strongly dominated by the aromatic features at 6.2, 7.7, 8.6, and 11.3 μm. Additional emission appears in between the features, and an underlying continuum is clearly evident at 3-5 μm. This continuum would contribute about a third of the luminosity in the 3-13 μm range. The features together carry 5%-30% of the 40-120 μm far-infrared (FIR) luminosity. The relative fluxes in individual features depend very weakly on galaxy parameters such as the far-infrared colors, direct evidence that the emitting particles are not in thermal equilibrium. The dip at 10 μm is unlikely to result from silicate absorption since its shape is invariant among galaxies. The continuum component has a fν oc ∝ ν+0.65 shape between 3 and 5 μm and carries 1%-4% of the FIR luminosity; its extrapolation to longer wavelengths falls well below the spectrum in the 6-12 μm range. This continuum component is almost certainly of nonstellar origin and is probably due to fluctuating grains without aromatic features. The spectra reported here typify the integrated emission from the interstellar medium of the majority of star-forming galaxies and could thus be used to obtain redshifts of highly extincted galaxies up to z = 3 with SIRTF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L21-L24
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 2
StatePublished - Mar 20 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: ISM
  • Infrared: ISM: lines and bands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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