University of Hertfordshire

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A Radio Continuum Study of Dwarf Galaxies: 6 cm imaging of Little Things

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  • Luke Hindson
  • Ged Kitchener
  • Elias Brinks
  • Volker Heesen
  • Jonathan Westcott
  • Deidre Hunter
  • Hong-Xin Zhang
  • Michael Rupen
  • Urvashi Rau
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Original languageEnglish
Article number29
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


In this paper, we examine to what extent the radio continuum can be used as an extinction-free probe of star formation in dwarf galaxies. To that aim, we observe 40 nearby dwarf galaxies with the Very Large Array at 6 cm (4-8 GHz) in C-configuration. We obtained images with 3″-8″ resolution and noise levels of 3-15 μJy beam -1. We detected emission associated with 22 of the 40 dwarf galaxies, eight of which are new detections. The general picture is that of an interstellar medium largely devoid of radio continuum emission, interspersed by isolated pockets of emission associated with star formation. We find an average thermal fraction of ∼50%-70% and an average magnetic field strength of ∼5-8 μG, only slightly lower than that found in larger, spiral galaxies. At 100 pc scales, we find surprisingly high values for the average magnetic field strength of up to 50 μG. We find that dwarf galaxies follow the theoretical predictions of the radio continuum-star formation rate relation within regions of significant radio continuum emission but that the nonthermal radio continuum is suppressed relative to the star formation rate when considering the entire optical disk. We examine the far-infrared-star formation rate relation for our sample and find that the far-infrared is suppressed compared to the expected star formation rate. We discuss explanations for these observed relations and the impact of our findings on the radio continuum-far-infrared relation. We conclude that radio continuum emission at centimeter wavelengths has the promise of being a largely extinction-free star formation rate indicator. We find that star formation rates of gas-rich, low-mass galaxies can be estimated with an uncertainty of ± 0.2 dex between the values of 2 × 10 -4 and 0.1 M o yr -1.


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