Consequences of dynamical disruption and mass segregation for the binary frequencies of star clusters

Aaron M. Geller, Richard De Grijs, Chengyuan Li, Jarrod R. Hurley

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31 Citations (Scopus)


The massive (13,000-26,000 M ) and young (15-30 Myr) Large Magellanic Cloud star cluster NGC 1818 reveals an unexpected increasing binary frequency with radius for F-type stars (1.3-2.2 M ). This is in contrast to many older star clusters that show a decreasing binary frequency with radius. We study this phenomenon with sophisticated N-body modeling, exploring a range of initial conditions, from smooth virialized density distributions to highly substructured and collapsing configurations. We find that many of these models can reproduce the cluster's observed properties, although with a modest preference for substructured initial conditions. Our models produce the observed radial trend in binary frequency through disruption of soft binaries (with semi-major axes, a ≳ 3000 AU), on approximately a crossing time (∼5.4 Myr), preferentially in the cluster core. Mass segregation subsequently causes the binaries to sink toward the core. After roughly one initial half-mass relaxation time (t rh(0) ∼ 340 Myr) the radial binary frequency distribution becomes bimodal, the innermost binaries having already segregated toward the core, leaving a minimum in the radial binary frequency distribution that marches outward with time. After 4-6 t rh(0), the rising distribution in the halo disappears, leaving a radial distribution that rises only toward the core. Thus, both a radial binary frequency distribution that falls toward the core (as observed for NGC 1818) and one that rises toward the core (as for older star clusters) can arise naturally from the same evolutionary sequence owing to binary disruption and mass segregation in rich star clusters.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • binaries: general
  • galaxies: star clusters: individual (NGC 1818)
  • magellanic clouds
  • methods: numerical
  • stars: kinematics and dynamics


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