We analyzed the distribution of the red clump (RC) stars throughout the Galactic bulge using Two Micron All Sky Survey data. We mapped the position of the RC in 1deg2 fields within the area |l| ≤ 85 and 35 ≤ |b| ≤ 85, for a total of 170deg2. The single RC seen in the central area splits into two components at high Galactic longitudes in both hemispheres, produced by two structures at different distances along the same line of sight. The X-shape is clearly visible in the Z-X plane for longitudes close to the l = 0° axis. Crude measurements of the space densities of RC stars in the bright and faint RC populations are consistent with the adopted RC distances, providing further supporting evidence that the X-structure is real, and that there is approximate front-back symmetry in our bulge fields. We conclude that the Milky Way bulge has an X-shaped structure within |l| ≲ 2°, seen almost edge-on with respect to the line of sight. Additional deep near-infrared photometry extending into the innermost bulge regions combined with spectroscopic data is needed in order to discriminate among the different possibilities that can cause the observed X-shaped structure.
Áreas temáticas de ASJC Scopus
- Astronomía y astrofísica
- Ciencias planetarias y espacial