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I am doing my first steps in spectroscopy (IFS actually) and how we can learn more about galaxies by using it. I came up with a simple question which, unfortunately, I can not answer:

How can we measure the rotational velocity of a spiral galaxy given that the galaxy is perfectly face-on?

I understand how to do so if the galaxy was tilted or edge-on: By measuring the Doppler shift of the spectral lines for each spatial position. One side will be red, the other blue, and the rest somewhere in between. But what about if the galaxy is perfectly face-on? The Doppler shift will be zero right? Most of the resources, papers etc I find online are about tilted galaxies.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Sorry, no way to directly measure that speed.

However, you may try to guess the direction of the rotation by looking at the spiral structures. Usually the tips of the arms point in the opposite direction from the direction of rotation. But that is not a general rule, in some cases a so-called "leading structure" has been found, where the tips of the arms point in the direction of the rotation.

There is no sure way to know how a face-on galaxy rotates. That is not a big problem, because there are few of them. There are many more edge-on galaxies (can you see why?)

Here is why:

Imagine you throw into the air a bunch of compact discs (your spiral galaxies) with a kick (a homemade Big Bang), and somebody takes a picture while they are still in the air, dispersed all across the room and randomly oriented in all directions.

Which fraction of them in the picture, are seen face-on and edge-on?. To calculate this, you can pick each one up, and move it from its position, frozen in a three-dimensional point of your room, and stick it on the appropiate point on the surface of a sphere, without changing its orientation relative to you.

Since they are randomly oriented, they will cover the the sphere, with an equal number per unit surface, $N$

The sphere surface element can be written, in spherical coordinates, as: $d \phi d \theta sin \theta$. So you have this number of galaxies per element surface:

$$N d \phi d \theta sin \theta$$

Now, look at the thing from a distant point along the vertical of the north pole. Count how many discs are there between co-latitude $\theta_1$ and $\theta_2$:

$$N \int_{0}^{2\pi}d\phi \int_{\theta_1}^{\theta_2} d \phi d \theta sin \theta $$

(Co-latitude meaning polar angle, i.e. $90$ deg for the equator and $0$ deg for the north pole)

This integral yields the result:

$$2\pi N(cos(\theta_1)-cos(\theta_2))$$

Now, let's say you want to know in which proportion edge-ones appear with respect to face-ones. While the face-ones cover the north polar cap (say, between $0$ and $10$ degrees) the edge-ones are around the equator (say, between $80$ and $90$ degrees). So the calculation is:

$$\frac{2\pi N(cos(80 \deg)-cos(90 \deg))}{2\pi N(cos(0 \deg)-cos(10 \deg))} \approx 11.4$$

Thus, when you randomly pick up a spiral galaxy from a survey, finding it edge-on is above one order of magnitude more likely than finding it face-on.

Here is my basket ball and some failed CDs, serving a higher purpose:

Homemade extragalactic physics! Face-one galaxies are harder to find, than edge-ones

You see, only one "galaxy" is face-on, whereas the equator is covered with edge-ones.

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Thank you for your answer Eduardo! I guess there are more edge-on galaxies than face-on galaxies because everything in the universe is moving and the probabilities of finding a perfectly face-on galaxy are just too low? – AstrOne Apr 20 '13 at 9:46
No, it is something simpler. It arises from a geometrical argument. Try to calculate the fraction of galaxies seen between inclination 0 deg and, say, 10 deg as compared with the fraction between 80 deg and 90 deg, assuming they are all perfectly circle-shaped and randomly oriented in space. I post the solution in a few hours, ok? It is an interesting exercise! – Eduardo Guerras Valera Apr 20 '13 at 10:02
Wow, I have to admit, that was a very good explanation! I was thinking the same way in order to explain it but you also did/explained the math and you made it very clear to me. Thank you my friend! – AstrOne Apr 20 '13 at 12:33
I am sorry I can only vote this answer up once, it deserves more upvotes than this! – Thriveth Sep 15 '13 at 21:39

According to the contemporary but standard mathematics of AIAS.US, a Physics site dedicated to the revision and particularly, the rebuilding of false axioms of physics across the board; and according to my own research [largely consisting of the physical building of 3D models that mimic accordingly, the rotation and dispersion of stellar nebulae about the galactic plane; Then almost all spiral galaxy nebulae (stars etc.) are in hyperbolic spiral trajectory and outward bound from the centre.

This means that definitive spiral arms are "leading" the orbit visibly, but counter-intuitively to the more general observer. Black Holes, Dark Matter and the intuitive "cosmic swirl" had fudged or omitted the true parameters of galactic dynamics. The velocity [and hyperbolic orbit angle] of masses may vary dependent on either the strength of emission or ejection from the core, planar collision, or the velocity of extra galactic nebulae that is collision bound [with other local nebulae].

However, the element that has been neglected and that when reinstated gives reason - without need of "conjured" mathematical models of no registration in Nature - i.e. Black Holes, Big Bang, Dark Matter and "God Particles" - models that rely heavily on a fatally flawed Relativity and that therefore collapse like a house of cards when the pertinent mathematics are properly disseminated; the element that has been omitted is Torsion - the literal spinning of spacetime. Spin any mass, in any medium, for any length of time and it will create an "empathetic" spin of the medium about it.

The leap of understanding comes from the concept of what the "ether" or "vacuum" or space is truly made of. In denser media and loosely, this phenomenon would be known as "drag". In spacetime, it is torsion. If it is concluded that the Photon has mass, as do electrons, atoms and protons and other atomic components, then this may indicate some of the density values of spacetime.

The galactic plane is indeed rotating about the core. Masses of a general or slower velocity and that can be seen to be in hyperbolic orbit, will appear to be rotating more quickly the nearer to the core, but Torsion imbues a CONSTANT velocity to the field of spin that is the [almost 2D] plane and therefore, the outward bound, hyperbolic trajectories of the "general melee". In conclusion, the frequency of revolutions in the core area will be far greater than the outer, leading spiral arms revolution rate, despite sharing the same velocity.

So masses orbiting toward the outer reaches of the plane, may never complete another revolution of the core but be approaching a straighter line trajectory due to the nature of hyperbolic spiral development. Such masses [the product of the core] travel off into spacetime for infinity or to become the colliding "extra galactic intruder" in another galactic plane or core.

As well as the more obvious, general spiral flow, the tracks of a smaller variety of higher velocity ejections or collision resultant tracks, can be identified from within the hi-res images such as the popular, Hubble Space Telescope photographs of spiral galaxies to be found on their website. These tracks are tangential, straight(ish) lines of disturbment or perturbation. These traces indicate final or sporadic, higher energy emissions or collision resultant trajectory tracks. Scale down any hyperbolic spiral and it will look like a stretched clockspring; tight coils at one end and an almost straight "hockey stick handle".

On higher velocity traces, the "stretched clockspring" track shows how faster masses traverse the plane and may be seen to bisect the spiral arms transversely. This avails the opportunity to obtain relative velocities between the variant and the more general, geometrical presentation of the spiral arms orbit track. I believe it is possible to use these variants geometrically to calculate the actual velocities and revolution rates etc., but I have not done this yet.

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