The Role of black hole burning in the evolution of dense star clusters

Kyle Kremer*, Claire S. Ye, Sourav Chatterjee, Carl L. Rodriguez, Frederic A. Rasio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


As self-gravitating systems, dense star clusters exhibit a natural diffusion of energy from their innermost to outermost regions, leading to a slow and steady contraction of the core until it ultimately collapses under gravity. However, in spite of the natural tendency toward core collapse, the globular clusters (GCs) in the Milky Way exhibit a well-observed bimodal distribution in core radii separating the core-collapsed and non-core-collapsed clusters. This suggests an internal energy source is at work, delaying the onset of core collapse in many clusters. Over the past decade, a large amount of work has suggested that stellar black holes (BHs) play a dynamically-significant role in clusters throughout their entire lifetimes. Here we review our latest understanding of BH populations in GCs and demonstrate that, through their dynamical interaction with their host cluster, BHs can naturally explain the distinction between core-collapsed and non-core-collapsed clusters through a process we call black hole burning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-366
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the International Astronomical Union
Issue number351
StatePublished - 2019


  • black holes
  • dynamics
  • globular clusters
  • gravitational waves
  • numerical methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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