The European Space Agency has invested heavily in two cornerstones missions; Herschel and Planck. These space observatories provide us with an unprecedented opportunity to study, at far infrared wavelengths, the cold Universe beyond our galaxy. As these missions come to an end (2013) they will leave a huge legacy data set that we intend to exploit.
The data provides us with an opportunity to study cosmic dust in galaxies to answer fundamental questions about: the origin of the chemical elements, physical processes in the interstellar medium (ISM), its effect on stellar radiation, its relation to star formation and its relation to the cosmic far infrared background.
In the course of our work we will develop tools and computer models that will help us relate observed cosmic dust emission to the physical properties of the dust (chemical composition, size distribution, temperature) and to the origins of dust (evolved stars, super novae, growth in the ISM) and the processes that destroy it (high energy collisions and shock heated gas). To help us interpret the data we will use our own, world leading, Monte Carlo photon tracing radiative transfer model of galaxies. To carry out this research we will need to combine the Herschel/Planck data with that from many other new and state-of-the-art databases that contain observations at other wavelengths, thus creating the DustPedia database. To maximise our spatial resolution and sensitivity to cosmic dust our intention is use 3045 local galaxies (v< 3000 km/s) selected via their near infrared luminosity (stellar mass).
Images of the nearby galaxy NGC6946 - from left to right V(SDSS), J(2MASS), 4.6μm(WISE), 24μm(Spitzer), 100μm(PACS) and 250μm(SPIRE).