Thick disk

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Edge on view of the Milky Way with several structures indicated (not to scale). The Thick disk is shown in light yellow.

The thick disk is one of the structural components of several galaxies, including the Milky Way. It was first proposed as a unique galactic structure, different from the thin disk and the halo in an 1983 article by Gilmore & Reid.[1] It is supposed to dominate the stellar number density between 1 to 5 kiloparsecs (3.3 to 16.3 kly) above the Galactic plane[1] and is composed almost exclusively of older stars. Its chemical composition and kinematics (those of the stars comprising it) are also said to set it apart from the thin disk.[2][3]

The thick disk is a source of early kinematic and chemical evidence for a Galaxy's composition and thus is regarded as a very significant component for understanding Galaxy formation.


Various scenarios for the formation of this structure have been proposed, including:

  • Thick disks come from the heating of the thin disk.[4]
  • More energetic stars migrate outwards from the inner galaxy to form a thick disk at larger radii.[5]
  • It is a result of a merger event between the Milky Way and another dwarf galaxy.[6]
  • The disc forms thick at high redshift with the thin disc forming later [7]


Although the thick disk is mentioned as a bona fide galactic structure in numerous scientific studies and it's even thought to be a common component of disk galaxies in general,[8] its existence is still under dispute.

A very recent study claims to give evidence that the Milky Way has a continuous and monotonic distribution of disk thicknesses which would imply that there is in fact no thick disk in the Galaxy.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gilmore & Reid, 1983, "New light on faint stars. III - Galactic structure towards the South Pole and the Galactic thick disc", [1]
  2. ^ Bensby & Feltzing, "The Galactic thin and thick discs in the context of galaxy formation", [2]
  3. ^ Kordopatis et al., "A spectroscopic survey of thick disc stars outside the solar neighbourhood", [3]
  4. ^ Matthias Steinmetz, The Galactic thin and thick disk (2012), p. 4"
  5. ^ Ken Freeman, Structure and Evolution of the Milky Way (2012), p. 4"
  6. ^ Bensby et. al (1970). "The Galactic thin and thick discs in the context of galaxy formation". arXiv:0908.3807v1.pdf Check |arxiv= value (help). 
  7. ^ Brook et. al (2004). "The Emergence of the Thick Disk in a CDM Universe". arXiv:0405306v1.pdf Check |arxiv= value (help). 
  8. ^ Ken Freeman, Structure and Evolution of the Milky Way (2012), p. 4: "Thick disks are very common in disk galaxies."

External links[edit]