Spherical models of star clusters with potential escapers

Ian Claydon, Mark Gieles, Anna Lisa Varri, Douglas C. Heggie, Alice Zocchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

An increasing number of observations of the outer regions of globular clusters (GCs) have shown a flattening of the velocity dispersion profile and an extended surface density profile. Formation scenarios of GCs can lead to different explanations of these peculiarities, therefore the dynamics of stars in the outskirts of GCs are an important tool in tracing back the evolutionary history and formation of star clusters. One possible explanation for these features is that GCs are embedded in dark matter halos. Alternatively, these features are the result of a population of energetically unbound stars that can be spatially trapped within the cluster, known as potential escapers (PEs). We present a prescription for the contribution of these energetically unbound members to a family of self-consistent, distribution function-based models, which, for brevity, we call the Spherical Potential Escapers Stitched (SPES) models. We show that, when fitting to mock data of bound and unbound stars from an N-body model of a tidally-limited star cluster, the SPES models correctly reproduce the density and velocity dispersion profiles up to the Jacobi radius, and they are able to recover the value of the Jacobi radius itself to within 20%. We also provide a comparison to the number density and velocity dispersion profiles of the Galactic cluster 47 Tucanae. Such a case offers a proof of concept that an appropriate modelling of PEs is essential to accurately interpret Gaia data in the outskirts of GCs, and, in turn, to formulate meaningful present-day constraints for GC formation scenarios in the early universe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-160
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Early online date4 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • astro-ph.GA


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