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With the goal of investigating the degree to which the MIR emission traces the SFR, we analyze Spitzer 8 and 24 μm data of star-forming regions in a sample of 33 nearby galaxies with available HST NICMOS images in the Paα (1.8756 μm) emission line. The galaxies are drawn from the SINGS sample and cover a range of morphologies and a factor ~10 in oxygen abundance. Published data on local low-metallicity starburst galaxies and LIRGs are also included in the analysis. Both the stellar continuum-subtracted 8 μm emission and the 24 μm emission correlate with the extinction-corrected Paα line emission, although neither relationship is linear. Simple models of stellar populations and dust extinction and emission are able to reproduce the observed nonlinear trend of the 24 μm emission versus number of ionizing photons, including the modest deficiency of 24 μm emission in the low-metallicity regions, which results from a combination of decreasing dust opacity and dust temperature at low luminosities. Conversely, the trend of the 8 μm emission as a function of the number of ionizing photons is not well reproduced by the same models. The 8 μm emission is contributed, in larger measure than the 24 μm emission, by dust heated by nonionizing stellar populations, in addition to the ionizing ones, in agreement with previous findings. Two SFR calibrations, one using the 24 μm emission and the other using a combination of the 24 μm and Hα luminosities (Kennicutt and coworkers), are presented. No calibration is presented for the 8 μm emission because of its significant dependence on both metallicity and environment. The calibrations presented here should be directly applicable to systems dominated by ongoing star formation.


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