The milky way tomography with sloan digital sky survey. IV. Dissecting dust

Michael Berry, Željko Ivezić, Branimir Sesar, Mario Jurić, Edward F. Schlafly, Jillian Bellovary, Douglas Finkbeiner, Dijana Vrbanec, Timothy C. Beers, Keira J. Brooks, Donald P. Schneider, Robert R. Gibson, Amy Kimball, Lynne Jones, Peter Yoachim, Simon Krughoff, Andrew J. Connolly, Sarah Loebman, Nicholas A. Bond, David SchlegelJulianne Dalcanton, Brian Yanny, Steven R. Majewski, Gillian R. Knapp, James E. Gunn, J. Allyn Smith, Masataka Fukugita, Steve Kent, John Barentine, Jurek Krzesinski, Dan Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


We use Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) photometry of 73 million stars to simultaneously constrain best-fit main-sequence stellar spectral energy distribution (SED) and amount of dust extinction along the line of sight toward each star. Using a subsample of 23 million stars with Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS) photometry, whose addition enables more robust results, we show that SDSS photometry alone is sufficient to break degeneracies between intrinsic stellar color and dust amount when the shape of extinction curve is fixed. When using both SDSS and 2MASS photometry, the ratio of the total to selective absorption, RV , can be determined with an uncertainty of about 0.1 for most stars in high-extinction regions. These fits enable detailed studies of the dust properties and its spatial distribution, and of the stellar spatial distribution at low Galactic latitudes (|b| < 30°). Our results are in good agreement with the extinction normalization given by the Schlegel etal. (SFD) dust maps at high northern Galactic latitudes, but indicate that the SFD extinction map appears to be consistently overestimated by about 20% in the southern sky, in agreement with recent study by Schlafly etal. The constraints on the shape of the dust extinction curve across the SDSS and 2MASS bandpasses disfavor the reddening law of O'Donnell, but support the models by Fitzpatrick and Cardelli etal. For the latter, we find a ratio of the total to selective absorption to be RV = 3.0 ± 0.1(random)±0.1 (systematic) over most of the high-latitude sky. At low Galactic latitudes (|b| < 5°), we demonstrate that the SFD map cannot be reliably used to correct for extinction because most stars are embedded in dust, rather than behind it, as is the case at high Galactic latitudes. We analyze three-dimensional maps of the best-fit RV and find that RV = 3.1 cannot be ruled out in any of the 10 SEGUE stripes at a precision level of ∼0.1-0.2. Our best estimate for the intrinsic scatter of RV in the regions probed by SEGUE stripes is ∼ 0.2. We introduce a method for efficient selection of candidate red giant stars in the disk, dubbed "dusty parallax relation," which utilizes a correlation between distance and the extinction along the line of sight. We make these best-fit parameters, as well as all the input SDSS and 2MASS data, publicly available in a user-friendly format. These data can be used for studies of stellar number density distribution, the distribution of dust properties, for selecting sources whose SED differs from SEDs for high-latitude main-sequence stars, and for estimating distances to dust clouds and, in turn, to molecular gas clouds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number166
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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