A new Fokker-Planck approach for relaxation-driven evolution of galactic nuclei [GA]


We present an approach for simulating the collisional evolution of spherical isotropic stellar systems based on the one-dimensional Fokker-Planck equation. A novel aspect is that we use the phase volume as the argument of the distribution function, instead of the traditionally used energy, which facilitates the solution. The publicly available code, PhaseFlow, implements a high-accuracy finite-element method for the Fokker-Planck equation, and can handle multiple-component systems, optionally with the central black hole and taking into account loss-cone effects and star formation. We discuss the energy balance in the general setting, and in application to the Bahcall-Wolf cusp around a central black hole, for which we derive a perturbative solution. We stress that the cusp is not a steady-state structure, but rather evolves in amplitude while retaining an approximately $\rho\propto r^{-7/4}$ density profile. Finally, we apply the method to the nuclear star cluster of the Milky Way, and illustrate a possible evolutionary scenario in which a two-component system of lighter main-sequence stars and stellar-mass black holes develops a Bahcall-Wolf cusp in the heavier component and a weaker $\rho\propto r^{-3/2}$ cusp in the lighter, visible component, over the period of several Gyr. The present-day density profile is consistent with the recently detected mild cusp inside the central parsec, and is weakly sensitive to initial conditions.

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E. Vasiliev
Fri, 15 Sep 17

Comments: accepted by ApJ