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Title: Dust Temperature Uncertainties Hamper the Inference of Dust and Molecular Gas Masses from the Dust Continuum Emission of Quiescent High-redshift Galaxies

Single flux density measurements at observed-frame submillimeter and millimeter wavelengths are commonly used to probe dust and gas masses in galaxies. In this Letter, we explore the robustness of this method to infer dust mass, focusing on quiescent galaxies, using a series of controlled experiments on four massive halos from the Feedback in Realistic Environments project. Our starting point is four star-forming central galaxies at seven redshifts betweenz= 1.5 andz= 4.5. We generate modified quiescent galaxies that have been quenched for 100 Myr, 500 Myr, or 1 Gyr prior to each of the studied redshifts by reassigning stellar ages. We derive spectral energy distributions for each fiducial and modified galaxy using radiative transfer. We demonstrate that the dust mass inferred is highly dependent on the assumed dust temperature,Tdust, which is often unconstrained observationally. Motivated by recent work on quiescent galaxies that assumedTdust∼ 25 K, we show that the ratio between dust mass and 1.3 mm flux density can be higher than inferred by up to an order of magnitude, due to the considerably lower dust temperatures seen in non-star-forming galaxies. This can lead to an underestimation of dust mass (and, when submillimeter flux density is used as a proxy more » for molecular gas content and gas mass). This underestimation is most severe at higher redshifts, where the observed-frame 1.3 mm flux density probes rest-frame wavelengths far from the Rayleigh–Jeans regime, and hence depends superlinearly on dust temperature. We fit relations between ratios of rest-frame far-infrared flux densities and mass-weighted dust temperature that can be used to constrain dust temperatures from observations and hence derive more reliable dust and molecular gas masses.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal Letters
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Article No. L27
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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