The Galactic dynamics revealed by the filamentary structure in atomic hydrogen emission

Juan D. Soler, Marc-Antoine Miville-Deschênes, Sergio Molinari, Ralf S. Klessen, Patrick Hennebelle, Leonardo Testi, Naomi M. McClure-Griffiths, Henrik Beuther, Davide Elia, Eugenio Schisano, Alessio Traficante, Philipp Girichidis, Simon C. O. Glover, Rowan J. Smith, Mattia Sormani, Robin Treß

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a study of the filamentary structure in the atomic hydrogen (HI) emission at the 21 cm wavelength toward the Galactic plane using the observations in the HI4PI survey. Using the Hessian matrix method across radial velocity channels, we identified the filamentary structures and quantified their orientations using circular statistics. We found that the regions of the Milky Way's disk beyond 10 kpc and up to roughly 18 kpc from the Galactic center display HI filamentary structures predominantly parallel to the Galactic plane. For regions at lower Galactocentric radii, we found that the HI filaments are mostly perpendicular or do not have a preferred orientation with respect to the Galactic plane. We interpret these results as the imprint of supernova feedback in the inner Galaxy and Galactic rotation in the outer Milky Way. We found that the HI filamentary structures follow the Galactic warp and that they highlight some of the variations interpreted as the effect of the gravitational interaction with satellite galaxies. In addition, the mean scale height of the filamentary structures is lower than that sampled by the bulk of the HI emission, thus indicating that the cold and warm atomic hydrogen phases have different scale heights in the outer galaxy. Finally, we found that the fraction of the column density in HI filaments is almost constant up to approximately 18 kpc from the Galactic center. This is possibly a result of the roughly constant ratio between the cold and warm atomic hydrogen phases inferred from the HI absorption studies. Our results indicate that the HI filamentary structures provide insight into the dynamical processes shaping the Galactic disk. Their orientations record how and where the stellar energy input, the Galactic fountain process, the cosmic ray diffusion, and the gas accretion have molded the diffuse interstellar medium in the Galactic plane.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA96
Number of pages31
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Early online date24 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • ISM: structure
  • ISM: kinematics and dynamics
  • ISM: atoms
  • ISM: clouds
  • Galaxy: structure
  • Radio lines: ISM


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