On the orbits that generate the X-shape in the Milky Way bulge

Abbott, Caleb G., Valluri, Monica, Shen, Juntai and Debattista, Victor P orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-7902-0116 (2017) On the orbits that generate the X-shape in the Milky Way bulge. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 470 (2). pp. 1526-1541. ISSN 0035-8711

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stx1262


The Milky Way (MW) bulge shows a boxy/peanut or X-shaped bulge (hereafter BP/X) when viewed in infrared ormicrowave bands.We examine orbits in an N-body model of a barred disc galaxy that is scaled to match the kinematics of theMWbulge.We generate maps of projected stellar surface density, unsharp masked images, 3D excess-mass distributions (showing mass outside ellipsoids), line-of-sight number count distributions, and 2D line-of-sight kinematics for the simulation as well as co-added orbit families, in order to identify the orbits primarily responsible for the BP/X shape. We estimate that between 19 and 23 per cent of the mass of the bar in this model is associated with the BP/X shape and that the majority of bar orbits contribute to this shape that is clearly seen in projected surface density maps and 3D excess mass for non-resonant box orbits, 'banana' orbits, 'fish/pretzel' orbits and 'brezel' orbits. Although only the latter two families (comprising 7.5 per cent of the total mass) show a distinct X-shape in unsharp masked images, we find that nearly all bar orbit families contribute some mass to the 3D BP/X-shape. All co-added orbit families show a bifurcation in stellar number count distribution with distance that resembles the bifurcation observed in red clump stars in the MW. However, only the box orbit family shows an increasing separation of peaks with increasing galactic latitude |b|, similar to that observed. Our analysis suggests that no single orbit family fully explains all the observed features associated with the MW's BP/X-shaped bulge, but collectively the non-resonant boxes and various resonant boxlet orbits contribute at different distances from the centre to produce this feature. We propose that since box orbits (which are the dominant population in bars) have three incommensurable orbital fundamental frequencies, their 3D shapes are highly flexible and, like Lissajous figures, this family of orbits is most easily able to adapt to evolution in the shape of the underlying potential. © 2017 The Authors.

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