The VANDELS survey: Dust attenuation in star-forming galaxies at z = 3 - 4

F. Cullen, R. J. McLure, S. Khochfar, J. S. Dunlop, C. Dalla Vecchia, A. C. Carnall, N. Bourne, M. Castellano, A. Cimatti, M. Cirasuolo, D. Elbaz, J. P. U. Fynbo, B. Garilli, A. Koekemoer, F. Marchi, L. Pentericci, M. Talia, G. Zamorani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present the results of a new study of dust attenuation at redshifts 3<z <4 based on a sample of 236 star-forming galaxies from theVANDELS spectroscopic survey. Motivated by results from the FirstBillion Years (FiBY) simulation project, we argue that the intrinsicspectral energy distributions (SEDs) of star-forming galaxies at theseredshifts have a self-similar shape across the mass range 8.2 ≤log(M⋆/M⊙) ≤ 10.6 probed by oursample. Using FiBY data, we construct a set of intrinsic SED templateswhich incorporate both detailed star formation and chemical abundancehistories, and a variety of stellar population synthesis (SPS) modelassumptions. With this set of intrinsic SEDs, we present a novelapproach for directly recovering the shape and normalization of the dustattenuation curve. We find, across all of the intrinsic templatesconsidered, that the average attenuation curve for star-forming galaxiesat z ≃ 3.5 is similar in shape to the commonly-adopted Calzettistarburst law, with an average total-to-selective attenuation ratio ofRV = 4.18 ± 0.29. In contrast, we find that an averageattenuation curve as steep as the SMC extinction law is stronglydisfavoured. We show that the optical attenuation (AV) versusstellar mass (M⋆) relation predicted using our method isconsistent with recent ALMA observations of galaxies at 2 <z <3in the HubbleUltraDeepField (HUDF), as well as empirical AV -M⋆ relations predicted by a Calzetti-like law. In fact,our results, combined with other literature data, suggest that theAV - M⋆ relation does not evolve over theredshift range 0 <z <5, at least for galaxies withlog(M⋆/M⊙) ≳ 9.5. Finally, wepresent tentative evidence which suggests that the attenuation curve maybecome steeper at lower masses log(M⋆/M⊙)≲ 9.0.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3218-3232
Number of pages15
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date22 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • dust
  • galaxies: high redshift
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: star-forming
  • extinction


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