The Complex Physics of Dusty Star-Forming Galaxies at High Redshifts as Revealed by Herschel and Spitzer
We combine far-infrared photometry from Herschel (PEP/HerMES) with deep mid-infrared spectroscopy from Spitzer to investigate the nature and the mass assembly history of a sample of 31 luminous and ultraluminous infrared galaxies ((U)LIRGs) at z similar to 1 and 2 selected in GOODS-S with 24 mu m fluxes between 0.2 and 0.5 mJy. We model the data with a self-consistent physical model (GRASIL) which includes a state-of-the-art treatment of dust extinction and reprocessing. We find that all of our galaxies appear to require massive populations of old (>1 Gyr) stars and, at the same time, to host a moderate ongoing activity of star formation (SFR <= 100 M-circle dot yr(-1)). The bulk of the stars appear to have been formed a few Gyr before the observation in essentially all cases. Only five galaxies of the sample require a recent starburst superimposed on a quiescent star formation history. We also find discrepancies between our results and those based on optical-only spectral energy distribution (SED) fitting for the same objects; by fitting their observed SEDs with our physical model we find higher extinctions (by Delta A(V) similar to 0.81 and 1.14) and higher stellar masses (by Delta log(M-*) similar to 0.16 and 0.36 dex) for z similar to 1 and z similar to 2 (U)LIRGs, respectively. The stellar mass difference is larger for the most dust-obscured objects. We also find lower SFRs than those computed from LIR using the Kennicutt relation due to the significant contribution to the dust heating by intermediate-age stellar populations through "cirrus" emission (similar to 73% and similar to 66% of the total L-IR for z similar to 1 and z similar to 2 (U)LIRGs, respectively).