Toward an understanding of the mid-infrared surface brightness of normal galaxies

Daniel A. Dale, George Helou, Nancy A. Silbermann, Alessandra Contursi, Sangeeta Malhotra, Robert H. Rubin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We report a mid-infrared color and surface brightness analysis of IC 10, NGC 1313, and NGC 6946, three of the nearby galaxies studied under the Infrared Space Observatory Key Project on Normal Galaxies. Images with less than 9″ (170 pc) resolution of these nearly face-on, late-type galaxies were obtained using the LW2 (6.75 μm) and LW3 (15 μm) ISOCAM filters. Although their global flux ratios are similar and typical of normal galaxies, they show distinct trends of this color ratio with mid-infrared surface brightness. We find that Iv(6.75 μm)/Iv(15 μm) ≲ 1 only occurs for regions of intense heating activity where the continuum rises at 15 μm and where polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon destruction can play an important role. The shape of the color-surface brightness trend also appears to depend, to the second order, on the hardness of the ionizing radiation. We discuss these findings in the context of a two-component model for the phases of the interstellar medium and suggest that star formation intensity is largely responsible for the mid-infrared surface brightness and colors within normal galaxies, whereas differences in dust column density are the primary drivers of variations in the mid-infrared surface brightness between the disks of normal galaxies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2055-2064
Number of pages10
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: ISM
  • Galaxies: individual (IC 10, NGC 1313, NGC 6946)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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