Journal Article

A new formula describing the scaffold structure of spiral galaxies

Harry I. Ringermacher and Lawrence R. Mead

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 397, issue 1, pages 164-171
Published in print July 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
A new formula describing the scaffold structure of spiral galaxies

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We describe a new formula capable of quantitatively characterizing the Hubble sequence of spiral galaxies including grand design and barred spirals. Special shapes such as ring galaxies with inward and outward arms are also described by the analytic continuation of the same formula. The formula is r(φ) =A/log [B tan (φ/2N)]. This function intrinsically generates a bar in a continuous, fixed relationship relative to an arm of arbitrary winding sweep. A is simply a scale parameter while B, together with N, determines the spiral pitch. Roughly, greater N results in tighter winding. Greater B results in greater arm sweep and smaller bar/bulge, while smaller B fits larger bar/bulge with a sharper bar/arm junction. Thus B controls the ‘bar/bulge-to-arm’ size, while N controls the tightness much like the Hubble scheme. The formula can be recast in a form dependent only on a unique point of turnover angle of pitch – essentially a one-parameter fit, aside from a scalefactor. The recast formula is remarkable and unique in that a single parameter can define a spiral shape with either constant or variable pitch capable of tightly fitting Hubble types from grand design spirals to late-type large barred galaxies. We compare the correlation of our pitch parameter to Hubble type with that of the traditional logarithmic spiral for 21 well-shaped galaxies. The pitch parameter of our formula produces a very tight correlation with ideal Hubble type suggesting it is a good discriminator compared to logarithmic pitch, which shows poor correlation here similar to previous works. Representative examples of fitted galaxies are shown.

Keywords: galaxies: fundamental parameters; galaxies: spiral; galaxies: structure

Journal Article.  4030 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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