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Photo of Paul McMillan

Paul McMillan


Photo of Paul McMillan

The mass distribution and gravitational potential of the Milky Way


  • Paul J. McMillan

Summary, in English

We present mass models of the Milky Way created to fit observational constraints and to be consistent with expectations from theoretical modelling. The method used to create these models is that demonstrated in our previous study, and we improve on those models by adding gas discs to the potential, considering the effects of allowing the inner slope of the halo density profile to vary, and including new observations of maser sources in the Milky Way amongst the new constraints. We provide a best-fitting model, as well as estimates of the properties of the Milky Way. Under the assumptions in our main model, we find that the Sun is R0 = 8.20 ± 0.09 kpc from the Galactic Centre, with the circular speed at the Sun being v0 = 232.8 ± 3.0 kms-1; and that the Galaxy has a total stellar mass of (54.3 ± 5.7) × 109 M, a total virial mass of (1.30 ± 0.30) × 1012M and a local dark-matter density of 0.40 ± 0.04 GeV cm-3, where the quoted uncertainties are statistical. These values are sensitive to our choice of priors and constraints. We investigate systematic uncertainties, which in some cases may be larger. For example, if we weaken our prior on R0, we find it to be 7.97 ± 0.15 kpc and that v0 = 226.8 ± 4.2 kms-1.We find that most of these properties, including the local dark-matter density, are remarkably insensitive to the assumed power-law density slope at the centre of the dark-matter halo. We find that it is unlikely that the local standard of rest differs significantly from that found under assumptions of axisymmetry. We have made code to compute the force from our potential, and to integrate orbits within it, publicly available.


  • Lund Observatory

Publishing year







Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society





Document type

Journal article


Oxford University Press


  • Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology


  • Galaxy: fundamental parameters
  • Galaxy: kinematics and dynamics
  • Galaxy: structure
  • Methods: statistical




  • ISSN: 0035-8711