Evolution of dust content in galaxies probed by gamma-ray burst afterglows

Tzu-Ming Kuo, Hiroyuki Hirashita, Tayyaba Zafar

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20 Citations (Scopus)


Because of their brightness, gamma-ray burst (GRB) afterglows are viable targets for investigating the dust content in their host galaxies. Simple intrinsic spectral shapes of GRB afterglows allow us to derive the dust extinction. Recently, the extinction data of GRB afterglows are compiled up to redshift z = 6.3, in combination with hydrogen column densities and metallicities. This data set enables us to investigate the relation between dust-to-gas ratio and metallicity out to high redshift for a wide metallicity range. By applying our evolution models of dust content in galaxies, we find that the dust-to-gas ratios derived from GRB afterglow extinction data are excessively high such that they can be explained with a fraction of gas-phase metals condensed into dust (fin) ∼ 1, while theoretical calculations on dust formation in the wind of asymptotic giant branch stars and in the ejecta of Type II supernovae suggest a much more moderate condensation efficiency (fin ∼ 0.1). Efficient dust growth in dense clouds has difficulty in explaining the excessive dust-to-gas ratio at metallicities Z/Z < ϵ, where ϵ is the star formation efficiency of the dense clouds. However, if ϵ is as small as 0.01, the dust-to-gas ratio at Z ∼ 10−2 Z can be explained with nH ≳ 106 cm−3. Therefore, a dense environment hosting dust growth is required to explain the large fraction of metals condensed into dust, but such clouds should have low star formation efficiencies to avoid rapid metal enrichment by stars.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1238-1244
Number of pages7
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • dust
  • extinction
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • galaxies: ISM
  • gamma-rays: galaxies


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