Using direct N-body simulations which include both the evolution of single stars and the tidal field of the parent galaxy, we study the dynamical evolution of globular clusters and rich open clusters. We compare our results with other N- body simulations and Fokker-Planck calculations. Our simula- tions, performed on the GRAPE-4, employ up to 32,768 stars. The results are not in agreement with Fokker-Planck models, in the sense that the lifetimes of stellar systems derived using the latter are an order of magnitude smaller than those obtained in our simulations. For our standard run, Fokker-Plank calcu- lations obtained a lifetime of 0.28 Gyr, while our equivalent N -body calculations find 4 Gyr. The principal reason for the discrepancy is that a basic assumption of the Fokker-Plank approach is not valid for typical cluster parameters. The stellar evolution timescale is comparable to the dynamical timescale, and therefore the assumption of dynamical equilibrium leads to an overestimate of the dynamical effects of mass loss. Our results suggest that the region in parameter space for which Fokker-Planck studies of globular cluster evolution, including the effects of both stellar evolution and the galactic tidal field, are valid is limited. The discrepancy is largest for clusters with short lifetimes.
S. Zwart, P. Hut, J. Makino
Astronomy and Astrophysics