Three-dimensional structure of the milky way disk: The distribution of stars and dust beyond 0.35 R

Ronald Drimmel, David N. Spergel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

383 Scopus citations


We present a three-dimensional model for the Milky Way fitted to the far-infrared (FIR) and near-infrared (NIR) data from the COBE/DIRBE instrument for Galactic latitudes |b| < 30° and to within 20° of the Galactic center. Because of the low optical depth at 240 μm, the FIR emission traces the distribution of Galactic dust in the Galaxy. We model the dust distribution as due to three components: a warped exponential disk with scale length 0.28 R and a flaring scale height, a spiral arm component with four arms as traced by Galactic H II regions, and the local (Orion) arm, which produces prominent emission features at Galactic longitudes l ≃ 80 and -100°. A cosmic infrared background of 1.07 MJy sr-1 is recovered, consistent with previous determinations. The dust distribution is then used to calculate absorption in J and K, and the stellar emission in these wavebands is modeled with two components: a warped exponential disk with a scale length of 0.28 R and a spiral arm component dominated by two arms. This small scale length is consistent with a maximal disk model for our Galaxy, which is inconsistent with the cuspy dark matter halos predicted in CDM models. We find different amplitudes for the warp in the stars and dust, which starts within the solar circle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-202
Number of pages22
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 1
StatePublished - Jul 20 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Dust, extinction
  • Galaxy: disk
  • Galaxy: structure
  • Infrared: ISM
  • Infrared: stars


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