The gaia inertial reference frame and the tilting of the milky way disk

Michael Perryman, David N. Spergel, Lennart Lindegren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


While the precise relationship between theMilkyWay disk and the symmetry planes of the darkmatter halo remains somewhat uncertain, a time-varying disk orientation with respect to an inertial reference frame seems probable. Hierarchical structure formation models predict that the dark matter halo is triaxial and tumbles with a characteristic rate of ∼2 rad H -10 (∼30μas yr-1). These models also predict a time-dependent accretion of gas, such that the angular momentum vector of the disk should be misaligned with that of the halo. These effects, as well as tidal effects of the LMC, will result in the rotation of the angular momentum vector of the disk population with respect to the quasar reference frame. We assess the accuracy with which the positions and proper motions from Gaia can be referred to a kinematically non-rotating system, and show that the spin vector of the transformation from any rigid self-consistent catalog frame to the quasi-inertial system defined by quasars should be defined to better than 1μas yr-1. Determination of this inertial frame by Gaia will reveal any signature of the disk orientation varying with time, improve models of the potential and dynamics of the Milky Way, test theories of gravity, and provide new insights into the orbital evolution of the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy and the Magellanic Clouds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number166
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 10 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxy: disk
  • Galaxy: formation
  • astrometry
  • cosmology: observations
  • reference systems
  • space vehicles: instruments


Dive into the research topics of 'The gaia inertial reference frame and the tilting of the milky way disk'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this