EDP Sciences
Free Access
Volume 499, Number 2, May IV 2009
Page(s) 473 - 482
Section Galactic structure, stellar clusters, and populations
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/200809692
Published online 25 March 2009
A&A 499, 473-482 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/200809692

The spiral structure of our Milky Way Galaxy

L. G. Hou1, 2, J. L. Han1, and W. B. Shi1, 3

1  National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Jia-20, DaTun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100012, PR China
    e-mail: hjl@bao.ac.cn
2  Department of Physics, School of Physics, Peking University, Beijing 100871, PR China
3  Department of Space Science and Applied Physics, Shandong University at Weihai, 180 Cultural West Road, Shandong 264209, PR China

Received 2 March 2008 / Accepted 20 February 2009

Context. The spiral structure of our Milky Way Galaxy is not yet known. HII regions and giant molecular clouds are the most prominent spiral tracers. Models with 2-4 arms have been proposed to outline the structure of our Galaxy.
Aims. Recently, new data of spiral tracers covering a larger region of the Galactic disk have been published. We wish to outline the spiral structure of the Milky way using all tracer data.
Methods. We collected the spiral tracer data of our Milky Way from the literature, namely, HII regions and giant molecular clouds (GMCs). With weighting factors based on the excitation parameters of HII regions or the masses of GMCs, we fitted the distribution of these tracers with models of two, three, four spiral-arms or polynomial spiral arms. The distances of tracers, if not available from stellar or direct measurements, were estimated kinetically from the standard rotation curve of Brand & Blitz (1993, A&A, 275, 67) with R0 = 8.5 kpc, and $\Theta_0$ = 220 km s-1 or the newly fitted rotation curves with R0 = 8.0 kpc and $\Theta_0$ = 220 km s-1 or R0 = 8.4 kpc and $\Theta_0$ = 254 km s-1.
Results. We found that the two-arm logarithmic model cannot fit the data in many regions. The three- and the four-arm logarithmic models are able to connect most tracers. However, at least two observed tangential directions cannot be matched by the three- or four-arm model. We composed a polynomial spiral arm model, which can not only fit the tracer distribution but also match observed tangential directions. Using new rotation curves with R0 = 8.0 kpc and $\Theta_0$ = 220 km s-1 and R0 = 8.4 kpc and $\Theta_0$ = 254 km s-1 for the estimation of kinematic distances, we found that the distribution of HII regions and GMCs can fit the models well, although the results do not change significantly compared to the parameters with the standard R0 and $\Theta_0$.

Key words: Galaxy: structure -- Galaxy: kinematics and dynamics -- ISM: HII regions

© ESO 2009