Volume 538, February 2012
|Number of page(s)||14|
|Section||Galactic structure, stellar clusters and populations|
|Published online||13 February 2012|
Stellar populations in the Milky Way bulge region: towards solving the Galactic bulge and bar shapes using 2MASS data
1 Institut Utinam, CNRS UMR 6213, OSU THETA, Université de Franche-Comté, 41bis avenue de l’Observatoire, 25000 Besançon, France
2 Université de Toulouse, UPS-OMP, IRAP, 31028 Toulouse Cedex 4, France
3 CNRS, Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie, 9 Av. colonel Roche, BP 44346, 31028 Toulouse Cedex 4, France
Received: 14 January 2011
Accepted: 23 November 2011
Exploring the bulge region of our Galaxy is an interesting but challenging quest because of its complex structure and the highly variable extinction. We re-analyse photometric near-infrared data in order to investigate why it is so hard to reach a consensus on the shape and density law of the bulge, as witnessed in the literature. The apparent orientation of the bulge seems to vary with the range of longitude, latitude, and the population considered. To solve the problem we have used the Besançon galaxy model to provide a scheme for parameter fitting of the structural characteristics of the bulge region. The fitting process allows the shape of the bulge’s main structure to be determined. We explore various parameters and shapes for the bulge population, based on Ferrer’s ellipsoids, and fit the shape of the inner disc in the same process. The results show that the main structure has a standard triaxial boxy shape with an orientation of about 13° with respect to the Sun-Galactic centre direction. But the fit is greatly improved when we add a second structure,which is a longer and thicker ellipsoid. We emphasize that our first ellipsoid represents the main boxy bar of the Galaxy and that the thick bulge population could be either (i) a classical bulge slightly flattened by the effect of the bar’s potential; or (ii) an inner thick disc counterpart. With Ferrer’s ellipsoid, the model shows a general agreement with 2MASS data at the level of 10% in the whole bulge region but does not produce the “double clump” feature. However, we show that the double clump seen at intermediate latitudes can be reproduced by adding a slight flare to the bar. To characterize the populations better, we further simulate several fields that have been surveyed in spectroscopy and for which a metallicity distribution function (MDF) are available. The model agrees well with these MDF measured along the minor axis if we assume that the main bar has a mean solar metallicity and the second thicker population has a lower metallicity. It then naturally creates a vertical metallicity gradient by mixing the two populations. In the process of model fitting, we also determine the thin disc parameters. The thin disc is found to have a scale length of 2.2 kpc, in good agreement with previous estimates towards the anticentre, but with a large hole of scale length 1.3 kpc, giving a maximum density in the plane for this population at about 2.3 kpc from the Galactic centre. In the very central part of the bulge on top of our two populations, and by subtracting the fitted ellipsoids, we find evidence of an extra population in the nuclear region, at 2° in longitude and 1° of latitude from the Galactic centre. Its location corresponds well to the central molecular zone, and to the Alard nuclear bar.
Key words: Galaxy: bulge / Galaxy: general / Galaxy: stellar content / Galaxy: structure / Galaxy: center / Galaxy: evolution
© ESO, 2012
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