Date of Graduation

5-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Space & Planetary Sciences (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Graduate School

Advisor

Julia Kennefick

Committee Member

William Harter

Second Committee Member

Daniel Kennefick

Third Committee Member

Claud Lacy

Fourth Committee Member

Larry Roe

Fifth Committee Member

Marc Seigar

Abstract

In this dissertation, I explore the geometric structure of spiral galaxies and how the visible structure can provide information about the central mass of a galaxy, the density of its galactic disk, and the hidden mass of the supermassive black hole in its nucleus. In order to quantitatively measure the logarithmic spiral pitch angle (a measurement of tightness of the winding) of galactic spiral arms, I led an effort in our research group (the Arkansas Galaxy Evolution Survey) to modify existing two-dimensional fast Fourier transform software to increase its efficacy and accuracy. Using this software, I was able to lead an effort to calculate a black hole mass function (BHMF) for spiral galaxies in our local Universe. This work effectively provides us with a census of local black holes and establishes an endpoint on the evolutionary history of the BHMF for spiral galaxies. Furthermore, my work has indicated a novel fundamental relationship between the pitch angle of a galaxy's spiral arms, the maximum density of neutral atomic hydrogen in its disk, and the stellar mass of its bulge. This result provides strong support for the density wave theory of spiral structure in disk galaxies and poses a critical question of the validity of rival theories for the genesis of spiral structure in disk galaxies.

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