Optical rotation curves beyond the HI cut-off in spirals

Research paper by J. Bland-Hawthorn

Indexed on: 07 Dec '97Published on: 07 Dec '97Published in: Astrophysics


In the best observed spiral galaxies, the HI is observed to decline slowly with radius for up to 90% of the maximum extent, before experiencing a rapid truncation. Early models predicted that the outer parts of spirals would be fully ionized by a metagalactic UV field at column depths of roughly 10^{19} atoms cm^{-2}. Weak optical line emission has now been observed beyond the HI edge in a number of cases and, furthermore, this warm gas has been used to trace the dark halo far beyond the HI cut-off. But the observed emission measures (40-90 mR) are higher than expected for a cosmic origin. A more likely explanation is ionization of the warped outer disk by the blue stellar population at smaller radius. There are many implications of ionized warped edges, in particular, severe HI warps may be greatly under represented in current HI surveys. We briefly discuss the implications of this model for the Galactic warp.