The construction of nonspherical models of quasi-relaxed stellar systems

G. Bertin, A. L. Varri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Spherical models of collisionless but quasi-relaxed stellar systems have long been studied as a natural framework for the description of globular clusters. Here we consider the construction of self-consistent models under the same physical conditions, but including explicitly the ingredients that lead to departures from spherical symmetry. In particular, we focus on the effects of the tidal field associated with the hosting galaxy. We then take a stellar system on a circular orbit inside a galaxy represented as a "frozen" external field. The equilibrium distribution function is obtained from the one describing the spherical case by replacing the energy integral with the relevant Jacobi integral in the presence of the external tidal field. Then the construction of the model requires the investigation of a singular perturbation problem for an elliptic partial differential equation with a free boundary, for which we provide a method of solution to any desired order, with explicit solutions to 2 orders. We outline the relevant parameter space, thus opening the way to a systematic study of the properties of a two-parameter family of physically justified nonspherical models of quasi-relaxed stellar systems. The general method developed here can also be used to construct models for which the nonspherical shape is due to internal rotation. Eventually, the models will be a useful tool to investigate whether the shapes of globular clusters are primarily determined by internal rotation, by external tides, or by pressure anisotropy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1005-1019
Number of pages15
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2008

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • globular clusters: general
  • methods: analytical
  • stellar dynamics


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