The observed spiral structure of the Milky Way


The spiral structure of the Milky Way is not yet well determined. The keys to understanding this structure are to increase the number of reliable spiral tracers and to determine their distances as accurately as possible. HII regions, giant molecular clouds (GMCs), and 6.7-GHz methanol masers are closely related to high mass star formation, and hence they are excellent spiral tracers. We update the catalogs of Galactic HII regions, GMCs, and 6.7-GHz methanol masers, and then outline the spiral structure of the Milky Way. We collected data for more than 2500 known HII regions, 1300 GMCs, and 900 6.7-GHz methanol masers. If the photometric or trigonometric distance was not yet available, we determined the kinematic distance using a Galaxy rotation curve with the current IAU standard, R0R_0 = 8.5 kpc and Θ0\Theta_0 = 220 km sβˆ’1^{-1}, and the most recent updated values of R0R_0 = 8.3 kpc and Θ0\Theta_0 = 239 km sβˆ’1^{-1}, after we modified the velocities of tracers with the adopted solar motions. With the weight factors based on the excitation parameters of HII regions or the masses of GMCs, we get the distributions of these spiral tracers. The distribution of tracers shows at least four segments of arms in the first Galactic quadrant, and three segments in the fourth quadrant. The Perseus Arm and the Local Arm are also delineated by many bright HII regions. The arm segments traced by massive star forming regions and GMCs are able to match the HI arms in the outer Galaxy. We found that the models of three-arm and four-arm logarithmic spirals are able to connect most spiral tracers. A model of polynomial-logarithmic spirals is also proposed, which not only delineates the tracer distribution, but also matches the observed tangential directions.Comment: 22 Pages, 16 Figures, 7 Tables, updated to match the published versio

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