The linear response of stellar systems does not diverge at marginal stability
Abstract
The linear response of a stellar system's gravitational potential to a perturbing mass comprises two distinct contributions. Most famously, the system will respond by forming a polarization `wake' around the perturber. At the same time, the perturber may also excite one or more `normal modes', i.e. coherent oscillations of the entire stellar system which are either stable or unstable depending on the system parameters. The amplitude of the first (wake) contribution is known to diverge as a system approaches marginal stability. In this paper we consider the linear response of a homogeneous stellar system to a point mass moving on a straight line orbit. We prove analytically that the divergence of the wake response is in fact cancelled by a corresponding divergence in the normal mode response, rendering the total response finite. We demonstrate this cancellation explicitly for a box of stars with Maxwellian velocity distribution. Our results imply that polarization wakes may be much less efficient drivers of secular evolution than previously thought. More generally, any prior calculation that accounted for wakes but ignored modes may need to be revised.
 Publication:

arXiv eprints
 Pub Date:
 April 2023
 DOI:
 10.48550/arXiv.2304.07275
 arXiv:
 arXiv:2304.07275
 Bibcode:
 2023arXiv230407275H
 Keywords:

 Astrophysics  Astrophysics of Galaxies;
 Physics  Plasma Physics
 EPrint:
 5 pages, 2 figures