Dusty nuclear disks and filaments in early-type galaxies

H. D. Tran, Z. Tsvetanov, H. C. Ford, J. Davies, W. Jaffe, F. C. Van Den Bosch, A. Rest

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We examine the dust properties of a nearby distance-limited sample of early-type galaxies using WFPC2 of the Hubble Space Telescope. Dust is detected in 29 out of 67 galaxies (43%), including 12 with small nuclear dusty disks. In a separate sample of 40 galaxies biased for the detection of dust by virtue of their detection in IRAS 100 μm band, dust is found in ∼78% of the galaxies, 15 of which contain dusty disks. In those galaxies with detectable dust, the apparent mass of the dust correlates with radio and far-infrared luminosity, becoming more significant for systems with filamentary dust. A majority of IRAS and radio detections are also associated with dusty galaxies rather than dustless galaxies. This indicates that thermal emission from clumpy, filamentary dust is the main source of the far-IR radiation in early-type galaxies. Dust in small disklike morphology tends to be well aligned with the major axis of the host galaxies, while filamentary dust appears to be more randomly distributed with no preference for alignment with any major galactic structure. This suggests that, if the dusty disks and filaments have a common origin, the dust originates externally and requires time to dynamically relax and settle in the galaxy potential in the form of compact disks. More galaxies with visible dust than without dust display emission lines, indicative of ionized gas, although such nuclear activity does not show a preference for dusty disk over filamentary dust. There appears to be a weak relationship between the mass of the dusty disks and central velocity dispersion of the galaxy, suggesting a connection with a similar recently recognized relationship between the latter and the black hole mass.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2928-2942
Number of pages15
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2001



  • Dust, extinction
  • Galaxies: ISM
  • Galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Cite this

Tran, H. D., Tsvetanov, Z., Ford, H. C., Davies, J., Jaffe, W., Van Den Bosch, F. C., & Rest, A. (2001). Dusty nuclear disks and filaments in early-type galaxies. Astronomical Journal, 121(6), 2928-2942. https://doi.org/10.1086/321072