A novel look at energy equipartition in globular clusters

P. Bianchini, G. van de Ven, M. A. Norris, E. Schinnerer, A. L. Varri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Two-body interactions play a major role in shaping the structural and dynamical properties of globular clusters (GCs) over their long-term evolution. In particular, GCs evolve towards a state of partial energy equipartition that induces a mass dependence in their kinematics. By using a set of Monte Carlo cluster simulations evolved in quasi-isolation, we show that the stellar mass dependence of the velocity dispersion σ(m) can be described by an exponential function σ2 ∝ exp (−m/meq), with the parameter meq quantifying the degree of partial energy equipartition of the systems. This simple parametrization successfully captures the behaviour of the velocity dispersion at lower as well as higher stellar masses, that is, the regime where the system is expected to approach full equipartition. We find a tight correlation between the degree of equipartition reached by a GC and its dynamical state, indicating that clusters that are more than about 20 core relaxation times old, have reached a maximum degree of equipartition. This equipartition–dynamical state relation can be used as a tool to characterize the relaxation condition of a cluster with a kinematic measure of the meq parameter. Vice versa, the mass dependence of the kinematics can be predicted knowing the relaxation time solely on the basis of photometric measurements. Moreover, any deviations from this tight relation could be used as a probe of a peculiar dynamical history of a cluster. Finally, our novel approach is important for the interpretation of state-of-the-art Hubble Space Telescope proper motion data, for which the mass dependence of kinematics can now be measured, and for the application of modelling techniques which take into consideration multimass components and mass segregation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3644-3654
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Early online date8 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • stars: kinematics and dynamics
  • globular clusters: general


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