The properties of the galactic bar implied by gas kinematics in the inner milky way

Benjamin J. Weiner, J. A. Sellwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Longitude-velocity (l-V) diagrams of H I and CO gas in the inner Milky Way have long been known to be inconsistent with circular motion in an axisymmetric potential. Several lines of evidence suggest that the Galaxy is barred, and gas flow in a barred potential could be consistent with the observed "forbidden" velocities and other features in the data. We compare the H I observations to l-V diagrams synthesized from two-dimensional fluid dynamical simulations of gas flows in a family of barred potentials. The gas flow pattern is very sensitive to the parameters of the assumed potential, which allows us to discriminate among models. We present a model that reproduces the outer contour of the H I l-V diagram reasonably well; this model has a strong bar with a semimajor axis of 3.6 kpc, an axis ratio of approximately 3:1, an inner Lindblad resonance (ILR), and a pattern speed of 42 km s-1 kpc-1, and it matches the data best when viewed from 34° to the bar major axis. The behavior of the models, combined with the constraint that the shocks in the Milky Way bar should resemble those in external barred galaxies, leads us to conclude that wide ranges of parameter space are incompatible with the observations. In particular we suggest that the bar must be fairly strong, must have an ILR, and cannot be too end-on, with the bar major axis at 35° ± 5° to the line of sight. The H I data exhibit larger forbidden velocities over a wider longitude range than are seen in molecular gas; this important difference is the reason our favored model differs so significantly from other recently proposed models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-128
Number of pages17
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 1
StatePublished - Oct 10 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxy: kinematics and dynamics
  • Galaxy: structure
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Radio lines: ISM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The properties of the galactic bar implied by gas kinematics in the inner milky way'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this