Mapping the Bones of the Milky Way


It has recently been proposed (Goodman et al. 2014) that long, skinny, infrared dark clouds may trace out the densest features of the Milky Way, which include spiral arms, and possible inter-arm tendrils. The features are so long and skinny that they are almost certainly caused and maintained by a global gravitational potential, so they are not likely to be self-gravitating molecular clouds. These “Bones of the Milky Way” could be used to help piece together the structure of the Galaxy, shedding light on age-old questions, such as the number of spiral arms in our Galaxy and their locations. We have searched for and identified a handful of candidate Bones: long, filamentary infrared-dark clouds found in position-velocity space where our current model of the Galaxy predicts spiral arms should lie. Utilizing archival data, we have confirmed the location of these Bone candidates in the Galactic mid-plane and within 5 km/s of a spiral arm. We propose to use the IRAM 30-m to create the first ever high-resolution CO map (1mm) of a candidate “Bone of the Milky Way,” simultaneously with a suite of dense gas tracers at 3mm with IRAM. Capitalizing on IRAM’s unique ability to map CO over large areas at high angular resolution while simultaneously obtaining kinematic information about the dense gas, we will provide the first measure of structure and kinematics toward these unique Galactic structures. Our total time request is XX hours to map XX sq. arcminutes at 1mm (\(^{13}\)CO and C\(^{18}\)O 2-1) and 3mm (HCO\(^{+}\), HCN 1-0, etc.) toward our most promising Northern-hemisphere candidate Bone, “BC1.”