Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Deriving the shape of the Galactic stellar disc

16.03.2006


An edge-on view of the ESO 510-G13 warped galaxy. Courtesy of NASA, the Hubble Heritage Team, and C. Conselice.


While analysing the complex structure of the Milky Way, an international team of astronomers from Italy and the United Kingdom has recently derived the shape of the Galactic outer stellar disc, and provided the strongest evidence that, besides being warped, it is at least 70% more extended than previously thought. Their findings will be reported in an upcoming issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics, and is a new step in understanding the large-scale structure of our Galaxy.

Using the 2MASS all-sky near infrared catalogue, Yazan Momany and his collaborators reconstructed the outer structure of the Galactic stellar disc, in particular, its warp. Their work will soon be published in Astronomy & Astrophysics. Observationally, the warp is a bending of the Galactic plane upwards in the first and second Galactic longitude quadrants (0

The disc of our Galaxy is made up of three major components: the stellar, the gaseous, and the interstellar dust components. The warping of the gas and dust component has been well established and documented. In particular, the gaseous component is known to be warped and to extend out to 25,000 parsecs (pc). In contrast, the true extent of this stellar warping is still being debated. Over the past years, there has been changing evidence of a difference in the warp amplitude between stars and gas. These studies have led to the idea that the Milky Way stellar disc is truncated beyond 14,000 pc from the Galactic centre.



The new analysis by Momany and his team provides the first clear and complete view of the outer stellar disc warp. They analyzed the distribution of over 115 million stars from the all-sky 2MASS catalogue that comprise the totality of the Galactic disc. Among the many different stellar types, M-giant stars were found to be the ideal stellar tracer for reconstructing the outer disc structure. They are, in fact, highly luminous but relatively cool and evolved stars, and these unique properties allow better determination of their distance. The analysis also shows that M-giants stars located at distances between 3,000 and of 17,000 pc from the Sun draw the same stellar warp signature. This means that a global and large-scale Milky Way feature has been identified to about 25,000 pc from the Galactic centre: the team thus clearly demonstrates that there is no truncation of the stellar disc beyond 14,000 pc. The figures below illustrate the shape of the Galactic outer stellar disc. Figure 2 shows the density maps as derived from the 2MASS M-giant sample at 14,000 pc from the Galactic centre. The presence of the warp is quite clear at both ends of the stellar disc. Figure 3 quantitatively shows the amplitude and orientation of the disc’s stellar warp as a function of the Galactic longitude. It also shows the consistency of the warp signature in the three disc components (gas, dust, and stars). It is a natural consequence of the close physical correlation between these three Galactic disc components, and proves once more the existence of a global and regular warp signature for the Galactic disc.

Last but not least, this new evidence of an extended and warped Milky Way stellar disc allows the team to solve a heated debate among astronomers. In the past years, astronomers have identified over-densities in the opposite direction to the Galactic centre. Located in the Galactic plane, they stretch over 100 degrees in Monoceros constellation. Known as the Monoceros Ring, this over-density was believed to be the remnant of a dwarf satellite galaxy cannibalised by the Milky Way. Another well-known example exists in the Sagittarius constellation of how the Milky Way halo is continuously building up by means of cannibalised smaller galaxies.

Recently, an over-density located in Canis Major was associated to the Monoceros Ring and identified as the core of a satellite galaxy currently being accreted into the Galactic plane. Momany and colleagues’ work, however, casts serious doubt on this scenario. They show that the Canis Major over-density is easily explained by the imprint of the Galactic warp. They may also be able to explain the Monoceros Ring by the complex structure of the outer disc, but they cannot offer a definite conclusion about this issue yet, as very little is known about the Monoceros Ring. It seems, however, that the Sagittarius dwarf remains the only example we have for the moment of how our Milky Way is still growing by cannibalising smaller galaxies.

Jennifer Martin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.edpsciences.org/journal/index.cfm?edpsname=aa&niv1=others&niv2=press_release&niv3=PRaa200605

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Hope to discover sure signs of life on Mars? New research says look for the element vanadium
22.09.2017 | University of Kansas

nachricht Calculating quietness
22.09.2017 | Forschungszentrum MATHEON ECMath

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>