Competition of supermassive black holes and galactic spheroids in the destruction of globular clusters

Jane C. Charlton, Pablo Laguna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The globular clusters that we observe in galaxies may be only a fraction of the initial population. Among the evolutionary influences on the population is the destruction of globular clusters by tidal forces as the cluster moves through the field of influence of a disk, a bulge, and/or a putative nuclear component (black hole). We have conducted a series of N-body simulations of globular clusters on bound and marginally bound orbits through potentials that include black hole and spheroidal components. The degree of concentration of the spheroidal component can have a considerable impact on the extent to which a globular cluster is disrupted. If half the mass of a 1010 M spheorid is concentrated within 800 pc, then only black holes with masses greater than 109 M can have a significant tidal influence over that already exerted by the bulge. However, if the matter in the spheroidal component is not so strongly concentrated toward the center of the galaxy, a more modest central black hole (down to 108 M) could have a dominant influence on the globular cluster distribution, particularly if many of the clusters were initially on highly radial orbits. Our simulations show that the stars that are stripped from a globular cluster follow orbits with roughly the same eccentricity as the initial cluster orbit, spreading out along the orbit like a "string of pearls." Since only clusters on close to radial orbits will suffer substantial disruption, the population of stripped stars will be on orbits of high eccentricity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-199
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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