Brackett-γ as a Gold-standard Test of Star Formation Rates Derived from SED Fitting

Imad Pasha, Joel Leja, Pieter G. Van Dokkum, Charlie Conroy, Benjamin D. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Using a local reference sample of 21 galaxies, we compare observations of the 2.16 μm Brackett-γ (Brγ) hydrogen recombination line with predictions from the Prospector Bayesian inference framework, which was used to fit the broadband photometry of these systems. This is a clean test of the spectral-energy-distribution-derived star formation rates (SFRs), as dust is expected to be optically thin at this wavelength in nearly all galaxies; thus, the internal conversion of SFR to predicted line luminosity does not depend strongly on the adopted dust model and posterior dust parameters, as is the case for shorter-wavelength lines such as Hα. We find that Prospector predicts Brγ luminosities and equivalent widths with small offsets (∼0.05 dex) and scatter (∼0.2 dex), consistent with measurement uncertainties, though we caution that the derived offset is dependent on the choice of stellar isochrones. We demonstrate that even when the Prospector-derived dust attenuation does not well describe, e.g., Hα line properties or observed reddening between Hα and Brγ, the underlying SFRs are accurate, as verified by the dust-free Brγ comparison. Finally, we discuss in what ways Brγ might be able to help constrain model parameters when treated as an input to the model, and we comment on its potential as an accurate monochromatic SFR indicator in the era of JWST multiobject near-IR spectroscopy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number165
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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