Dust Abundance Variations in the Magellanic Clouds: Probing the Life-cycle of Metals with All-sky Surveys
Observations and modeling suggest that the dust abundance (gas-to-dust ratio, G/D) depends on (surface) density. The variations of the G/D provide constraints on the timescales for the different processes involved in the lifecycle of metals in galaxies. Recent G/D measurements based on Herschel data suggest a factor 5---10 decrease in the dust abundance between the dense and diffuse interstellar medium (ISM) in the Magellanic Clouds. However, the relative nature of the Herschel measurements
... ludes definitive conclusions on the magnitude of those variations. We investigate the variations of the dust abundance in the LMC and SMC using all-sky far-infrared surveys, which do not suffer from the limitations of Herschel on their zero-point calibration. We stack the dust spectral energy distribution (SED) at 100, 350, 550, and 850 microns from IRAS and Planck in intervals of gas surface density, model the stacked SEDs to derive the dust surface density, and constrain the relation between G/D and gas surface density in the range 10---100 pc^-2 on ∼ 80 pc scales. We find that G/D decreases by factors of 3 (from 1500 to 500) in the LMC and 7 (from 1.5× 10^4 to 2000) in the SMC between the diffuse and dense ISM. The surface density dependence of G/D is consistent with elemental depletions and with simple modeling of the accretion of gas-phase metals onto dust grains. This result has important implications for the sub-grid modeling of galaxy evolution, and for the calibration of dust-based gas mass estimates, both locally and at high-redshift.