Spirality: A Novel Way to Measure Spiral Arm Pitch Angle

Deanna Shields, Benjamin Boe, Casey Pfountz, Benjamin L. Davis, Matthew Hartley, Ryan Miller, Zac Slade, M. Shameer Abdeen, Daniel Kennefick, Julia Kennefick

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    We present the MATLAB code Spirality, a novel method for measuring spiral arm pitch angles by fitting galaxy images to spiral templates of known pitch. Computation time is typically on the order of 2 min per galaxy, assuming 8 GB of working memory. We tested the code using 117 synthetic spiral images with known pitches, varying both the spiral properties and the input parameters. The code yielded correct results for all synthetic spirals with galaxy-like properties. We also compared the code’s results to two-dimensional Fast Fourier Transform (2DFFT) measurements for the sample of nearby galaxies defined by DMS PPak. Spirality’s error bars overlapped 2DFFT’s error bars for 26 of the 30 galaxies. The two methods’ agreement correlates strongly with galaxy radius in pixels and also with i-band magnitude, but not with redshift, a result that is consistent with at least some galaxies’ spiral structure being fully formed by (Formula presented.), beyond which there are few galaxies in our sample. The Spirality code package also includes GenSpiral, which produces FITS images of synthetic spirals, and SpiralArmCount, which uses a one-dimensional Fast Fourier Transform to count the spiral arms of a galaxy after its pitch is determined. All code is freely available.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number100
    Issue number5
    StatePublished - Oct 2022


    • data analysis methods
    • galaxies
    • galaxy evolution
    • galaxy structure
    • image analysis methods
    • spiral arms
    • spiral galaxies

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics


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