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Star-forming complexes and the spiral structure of our Galaxy

Star-forming complexes and the spiral structure of our Galaxy

Publication date: 01 January 2003

Authors: Russeil, D.

Journal: Astronomy & Astrophysics
Volume: 397
Issue: 1
Page: 133-146
Year: 2003

Copyright: ESO

We have carried out a multiwavelength study of the plane of our Galaxy in order to establish a star-forming-complex catalogue which is as complete as possible. Features observed include H alpha, H109 alpha, CO, the radio continuum and absorption lines. For each complex we have determined the position, the systemic velocity, the kinematic distance and, when possible, the stellar distance and the corresponding uncertainties. All of these parameters were determined as homogeneously as possible, in particular all the stellar distances have been (re)calculated with the same calibration and the kinematic distances with the same mean Galactic rotation curve. Through the complexes with stellar distance determination, a rotation curve has been fitted. It is in good agreement with the one of Brand & Blitz (1993). We also investigated the residual velocities relative to the circular rotation model. We find that departures exist over large areas of the arms, with different values from one arm to another. From our data and in good agreement with previous studies, the Galactic warp is observed. It does not seem correlated with the departures from circular rotation. Finally, as segment-like features are noted from the complexes' distribution, we tried to find if they are indicative of a larger underlying structure. Then, we attempted to interpret the complexes' distribution in terms of spiral structure by fitting models with two, three and four logarithmic spiral arms. The four-arm model seems more appropriate to represent the grand design of our Galaxy. In this model the Norma arm and the external arm appear as being the two extremities of a single arm called the Norma-Cygnus arm. The new data and fitted model confirm the four-segment model of Georgelin & Georgelin (1976), clarifying the arms' design and extension and doubling their known length.

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