Determining the co-rotation radii of spiral galaxies using spiral arm pitch angle measurements at multiple wavelengths

Shameer Abdeen, Daniel Kennefick, Julia Kennefick, Ryan Miller, Douglas W. Shields, Erik B. Monson, Benjamin L. Davis

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The spiral arms spanning disc galaxies are believed to be created by density waves that propagate through galactic discs. We present a novel method of finding the co-rotation radius where the spiral arm pattern speed matches the velocities of the stars within the disc. Our method uses an image-overlay technique, which involves tracing the arms of spiral galaxies on images observed in different wavelengths. Density wave theory predicts that spiral arms observed from different wavelengths show a phase crossing at the co-rotation radius. For the purpose of this study, 20 nearby galaxies were analysed in four different wavelengths with pitch angle measurements performed by two independent methods. We used optical wavelength images (B band 440 nm), two infrared wavelength images provided by Spitzer (3.6 and 8 μm) and ultraviolet images from GALEX (1350, 1750 Å). The results were compared and verified with other records found in the literature. We then found rotation curve data for six of our galaxies and used our co-rotation radii estimates to measure the time that would elapse between star formation and moving to their observed positions in the B-band spirals. The average time lapse for this motion was found to be ∼50 Myr. The success of this new method of finding the co-rotation radius confirms density wave theory in a very direct way.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1610-1619
    Number of pages10
    JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 2020


    • Galaxies: fundamental parameters
    • Galaxies: spiral
    • Galaxies: structure
    • Techniques: image processing

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Space and Planetary Science


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