A Multiwavelength View of a Mass Outflow from the Galactic Center

C. J. Law

(1) Radio Astronomy Lab, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720

Paper: ApJ, 2009, accepted

EPrint Server: 0911.2061


The Galactic center (GC) lobe is a degree-tall shell of gas that spans the central degree of our Galaxy. It has been cited as evidence for a mass outflow from our GC region, which has inspired diverse models for its origin. However, most work has focused on the morphology of the GC lobe, which has made it difficult to draw strong conclusions about its nature. Here, I present a coherent, multiwavelength analysis of new and archival observations of the GC lobe. New radio continuum observations show that the entire structure has a similar spectral index, indicating that it has a common origin. The radio continuum emission shows that the GC lobe has a magnetized layer with a diameter of 110 pc and an equipartition field strength ranging from 40 to 100 mu G. I show that optical and radio recombination line emission are associated with the GC lobe and are consistent with being located in the GC region. The recombination line emission traces an ionized shell nested within the radio continuum with diameter of 80 pc and height 165 pc. Mid-infrared maps at 8 and 15 micron show that the GC lobe has a third layer of warm dust and PAH-emission that surrounds the radio continuum shell with a diameter of 130 pc. Assuming adibatic expansion of the gas in the GC lobe, its formation required an energy input of about 5*1052 ergs. I compare the physical conditions of the GC lobe to several models and find best agreement with the canonical starburst outflow model. The formation of the GC lobe is consistent with the currently observed pressure and star formation rate in the central tens of parsecs of our Galaxy. Outflows of this scale are more typical of dwarf galaxies and would not be easily detected in nearby spiral galaxies. Thus, the existence of such an outflow in our own Galaxy may indicate that it is relatively common phenomenon in the nuclei of spiral galaxies.

Preprints available from the authors at claw@astro.berkeley.edu , or the raw TeX (no figures) if you click here.

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