The dynamical evolution of globular clusters

Alan P. Lightman, Stuart L. Shapiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The fundamental physical ideas underlying the dynamical behavior of globular star clusters are reviewed. The results of detailed numerical experiments involving large N-body stellar systems are summarized and compared with observations. Intuitive arguments and crude, analytic derivations of many of the major results are provided. The topics treated represent, in effect, a chronological history of the dynamical life of a globular cluster-from its birth in the early universe through core contraction to a compact state, to ultimate dissolution in the galactic tidal field. The approach is nonrigorous and pedagogical rather than mathematical and the paper is intended as an introduction to recent developments in stellar dynamical theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)437-481
Number of pages45
JournalReviews of Modern Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1978
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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