Density waves and star formation in grand-design spirals
Astronomy and Astrophysics
HII regions in the arms of spiral galaxies are indicators of recent star-forming processes. They may have been caused by the passage of the density wave or simply created by other means near the arms. The study of these regions may give us clues to clarifying the controversy over the existence of a triggering scenario, as proposed in the density wave theory. Using H$\alpha$ direct imaging, we characterize the HII regions from a sample of three grand design galaxies: NGC5457, NGC628 and NGC6946.
... NGC628 and NGC6946. Broad band images in R and I were used to determine the position of the arms. The HII regions found to be associated with arms were selected for the study. The age and the star formation rate of these HII regions was obtained using measures on the H$\alpha$ line. The distance between the current position of the selected HII regions and the position they would have if they had been created in the centre of the arm is calculated. A parameter, T, which measures whether a region was created in the arm or in the disc, is defined. With the help of the T parameter we determine that the majority of regions were formed some time after the passage of the density wave, with the regions located 'behind the arm' (in the direction of the rotation of the galaxy) the zone they should have occupied had they been formed in the centre of the arm. The presence of the large number of regions created after the passage of the arm may be explained by the effect of the density wave, which helps to create the star-forming regions after its passage. There is clear evidence of triggering for NGC5457 and a co-rotation radius is proposed. A more modest triggering seems to exist for NGC628 and non significant evidence of triggering are found for NGC6946.