A FUNDAMENTAL PLANE of SPIRAL STRUCTURE in DISK GALAXIES

Benjamin L. Davis, Daniel Kennefick, Julia Kennefick, Kyle B. Westfall, Douglas W. Shields, Russell Flatman, Matthew T. Hartley, Joel C. Berrier, Thomas P.K. Martinsson, Rob A. Swaters

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Spiral structure is the most distinctive feature of disk galaxies and yet debate persists about which theory of spiral structure is correct. Many versions of the density wave theory demand that the pitch angle be uniquely determined by the distribution of mass in the bulge and disk of the galaxy. We present evidence that the tangent of the pitch angle of logarithmic spiral arms in disk galaxies correlates strongly with the density of neutral atomic hydrogen in the disk and with the central stellar bulge mass of the galaxy. These three quantities, when plotted against each other, form a planar relationship that we argue should be fundamental to our understanding of spiral structure in disk galaxies. We further argue that any successful theory of spiral structure must be able to explain this relationship.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numberL13
    JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
    Volume802
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Mar 20 2015

    Keywords

    • galaxies: evolution
    • galaxies: fundamental parameters
    • galaxies: kinematics and dynamics
    • galaxies: spiral
    • galaxies: structure

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Space and Planetary Science

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