Extinction Law Variations and Dust Excitation in the Spiral Galaxy NGC 300
We investigate the origin of the strong radial gradient in the ultraviolet-to-infrared ratio in the spiral galaxy NGC 300, and emphasize the importance of local variations in the interstellar medium geometry, concluding that they cannot be neglected with respect to metallicity effects. This analysis is based upon a combination of maps from GALEX and Spitzer, and from the ground (UBVRI, Halpha and Hbeta). We select ionizing stellar clusters associated with HII regions of widely varying
... es, and derive their fundamental parameters from population synthesis fitting of their spectral energy distributions, measured to eliminate local backgrounds accurately. From these fits, we conclude that the stellar extinction law is highly variable in the line of sight of young clusters of similar ages. In the particular model geometry that we consider most appropriate to the sampled regions, we checked that our findings are not significantly altered by the correct treatment of radiative transfer effects. The variations are systematic in nature: extinction laws of the Milky Way or LMC type are associated with compact HII regions (the compacity being quantified in two different ways), while clusters surrounded by diffuse HII regions follow extinction laws of the 30 Doradus or SMC type. The Calzetti starburst attenuation law, although most often degenerate with the 30 Doradus extinction law, overpredicts ionizing photon fluxes by large amounts. We also find that the extinction law variations are correlated with the column density of dust species emitting in the near- and mid-infrared. Finally, we briefly discuss the nebular to stellar extinction ratios, and the excitation of aromatic band carriers, invalidating their claimed association with cold dust.