I review the development of direct N-body codes at Cambridge over nearly 40 years, highlighting the main stepping stones. The first code (NBODY1) was based on the simple concepts of a force polynomial combined with individual time steps, where numerical problems due to close encounters were avoided by a softened potential. Fortuitously, the elegant Kustaanheimo-Stiefel two-body regularization soon permitted small star clusters to be studied (NBODY3). Subsequent extensions to unperturbed three-body and four-body regularization proved beneficial in dealing with multiple interactions. Investigations of larger systems became possible with the Ahmad-Cohen neighbor scheme which was used more than 20 years ago for expanding universe models of 4000 galaxies (NBODY2). Combining the neighbor scheme with the regularization procedures enabled more realistic star clusters to be considered (NBODY5). After a period of simulations with no apparent technical progress, chain regularization replaced the treatment of compact subsystems (NBODY3, NBODY5). More recently, the Hermite integration method provided a major advance and has been implemented on the special-purpose HARP computers (NBODY4) together with an alternative version for workstations and supercomputers (NBODY6). These codes also include a variety of algorithms for stellar evolution based on fast lookup functions. The treatment of primordial binaries contains efficient procedures for chaotic two-body motion as well as tidal circularization, and special attention is paid to hierarchical systems and their stability. This family of N-body codes constitutes a powerful tool for dynamical simulations which is freely available to the astronomical community, and the massive effort owes much to collaborators.
Astrophysics Source Code Library
- Pub Date:
- February 2011