The VANDELS survey: Dust attenuation in star-forming galaxies at $\mathbf{z=3-4}$ [GA]

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 the VANDELS spectroscopic survey. Motivated by results from the FiBY simulation project, we argue that the intrinsic SEDs of star-forming galaxies at these redshifts have a self-similar shape across the mass range $8.2 \leq$ log$(M_{\star}/M_{\odot}) \leq 10.6$ probed by our sample. Using FiBY data, we construct a set of intrinsic SED templates which incorporate both detailed star formation and chemical abundance histories, and a variety of SPS model assumptions. With this set of physically-motivated intrinsic SED templates, we present a novel approach for directly recovering the shape and normalization of the dust attenuation curve using the ratio of the intrinsic and observed SEDs. We find, across all of the intrinsic templates considered, that the average attenuation curve for star-forming galaxies at $z\simeq3.5$ is similar in shape to the commonly-adopted Calzetti starburst law, with an average total-to-selective attenuation ratio of $R_{V}=4.18\pm0.29$. In contrast, we find that an average attenuation curve as steep as the SMC extinction law is strongly disfavoured. We show that the optical attenuation ($A_V$) versus stellar mass ($M_{\star}$) relation predicted using our method is consistent with recent ALMA observations of galaxies at $2<z<3$ in the HUDF, as well as empirical $A_V – M_{\star}$ relations predicted by a Calzetti-like law. In fact, our results, combined with other literature data, suggest that the $A_V – M_{\star}$ relation does not evolve over the redshift range $0<z<5$, at least for galaxies with log$(M_{\star}/M_{\odot}) \gtrsim 9.5$. Finally, we present tentative evidence which suggests that the attenuation curve may become steeper at lower masses log$(M_{\star}/M_{\odot}) \lesssim 9.0$.

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F. Cullen, R. McLure, S. Khochfar, et. al.
Wed, 6 Dec 17

Comments: 15 pages, 11 figures, submitted to MNRAS