When Bad Masks Turn Good
In keeping with the spirit of a meeting on ‘masks,’ this talk presents two short stories on the theme of dust. In the first, dust plays the familiar role of the evil obscurer, the enemy to bedefeated by the cunning observer in order to allow a key future technology (adaptive optics) to be exploited fully by heroic astronomers. In the second story, dust itself emerges as the improbable hero, in the form of a circumstellar debris disks. I will present evidence of a puzzling near-infrared excess in the continuum of high-redshift galaxies and will argue that the seemingly improbable origin of this IR excess is a population of young circumstellar disks formed around high-mass stars in distant galaxies. Assuming circumstellar disks extend down to lower masses,as they do in our own Galaxy, the excess emission presents us with an exciting opportunity to measure the formation rate of planetary systems in distant galaxies at cosmic epochs before our own solar system formed.
KeywordsDust Hydrocarbon Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Emissivity Cyan
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