Author(s): DANIELA CALZETTI
The presence of dust in galaxies removes one-half or more of the stellar energy from the UV-optical budget of the universe and has a profound impact on our understanding of how galaxies evolve. Measures of opacity in local galaxies are reviewed together with widely used theoretical and empirical methods for quantifying its effects. Existing evidence shows that the dust content of nearby galaxies depends not only on their morphology but also on their luminosity and activity level. A digression is devoted to starbursts in view of their potential relevance for measures of opacity in distant galaxies. Scarcity of coherent multiwavelength data sets hampers our ability to derive reliable obscuration estimates in intermediate- and high-redshift galaxies. This, in turn, limits the reliability of inferred physical quantities, such as star formation rates, stellar population ages, galaxy luminosity functions, and others.