Galactic Extinction from Colors and Counts of Field Galaxies in WFPC2 Frames: An Application to GRB 970228

Rosa A. Gonzalez, Andrew S. Fruchter, Boris Dirsch
1999 Astrophysical Journal  
We develop the "simulated extinction method" to measure average foreground Galactic extinction from field galaxy number-counts and colors. The method comprises simulating extinction in suitable reference fields by changing the isophotal detection limit. This procedure takes into account selection effects, in particular, the change in isophotal detection limit (and hence in isophotal magnitude completeness limit) with extinction, and the galaxy color--magnitude relation. We present a first
more » ... esent a first application of the method to the HST WFPC2 images of the gamma-ray burster GRB 970228. Four different WFPC2 high-latitude fields, including the HDF, are used as reference to measure the average extinction towards the GRB in the F606W passband. From the counts, we derive an average extinction of A_V = 0.5 mag, but the dispersion of 0.4 mag between the estimates from the different reference fields is significantly larger than can be accounted by Poisson plus clustering uncertainties. Although the counts differ, the average colors of the field galaxies agree well. The extinction implied by the average color difference between the GRB field and the reference galaxies is A_V = 0.6 mag, with a dispersion in the estimated extinction from the four reference fields of only 0.1 mag. All our estimates are in good agreement with the value of 0.81\pm0.27 mag obtained by Burstein & Heiles, and with the extinction of 0.78\pm0.12 measured by Schlegel et al. from maps of dust IR emission. However, the discrepancy between the widely varying counts and the very stable colors in these high-latitude fields is worth investigating.
doi:10.1086/307015 fatcat:b3k3e3upirfmpngowoerwxsfjq