Distortion of globular clusters by galactic bulges

Holly K. Nordquist, Robert J. Klinger, Pablo Laguna, Jane C. Charlton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


One of the external fields that influences the population of globular clusters is that resulting from galactic bulges. In extreme situations, at perigalactic distances rp ≤ 100 pc, globular clusters could suffer total disruption in a single passage. A more common scenario is that for cluster orbits with rp ≥ 200 pc. We investigate the effects of tidal forces from a bulge on the shape of globular clusters for this type of encounter. We find distortions characterized by 'twisting isophotes' and consider the potential for observability of this effect. In the Milky Way, a typical globular cluster must pass within several hundred pc of the centre to experience substantial distortion, and it is possible that this has happened recently to one or two present-day clusters. We estimate that this distortion could be observed even for globulars in dense fields towards the bulge. In more extreme environments such as giant ellipticals or merger products with newly formed globulars, this effect could be more common, extending out to orbits that pass within 1 kpc of the bulge centre. This would lead to a substantial shift in the eccentricity distribution of globulars in those galaxies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)288-296
Number of pages9
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Distortion of globular clusters by galactic bulges'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this