Kinematics of spiral-arm streaming in M51

Shetty Rahul, Stuart N. Vogel, Eve Charis Ostriker, Peter J. Teuben

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


We use CO and Hα velocity fields to study the gas kinematics in the spiral arms and interarms of M51 (NGC 5194), and fit the 2D velocity field to estimate the radial and tangential velocity components as a function of spiral phase (arm distance). We find large radial and tangential streaming velocities, which are qualitatively consistent with the predictions of density wave theory and support the existence of shocks. The streaming motions are complex, varying significantly across the galaxy as well as along and between arms. Aberrations in the velocity field indicate that the disk is not coplanar, perhaps as far in as 20″ (800 pc) from the center. Velocity profile fits from CO and Hα are typically similar, suggesting that most of the Hα emission originates from regions of recent star formation. We also explore vortensity and mass conservation conditions. Vortensity conservation, which does not require a steady state, is empirically verified. The velocity and density profiles show large and varying mass fluxes, which are inconsistent with a steady flow for a single dominant global spiral mode. We thus conclude that the spiral arms cannot be in a quasi-steady state in any rotating frame, and/or that out-of-plane motions may be significant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1138-1158
Number of pages21
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Aug 10 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxies: Individual (M51)
  • Galaxies: Kinematics and dynamics
  • Galaxies: Spiral


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