Statistical mechanics of gravitational systems with regular orbits: Rigid body model of vector resonant relaxation

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I consider a self-gravitating, N-body system assuming that the N constituents follow regular orbits about the center of mass of the cluster, where a central massive object may be present. I calculate the average over a characteristic timescale of the full, N-body Hamiltonian including all kinetic and potential energy terms. The resulting effective system allows for the identification of the orbital planes with N rigid, disk-shaped tops, that can rotate about their fixed common centre and are subject to mutual gravitational torques. The time-averaging imposes boundaries on the canonical generalized momenta of the resulting canonical phase space. I investigate the statistical mechanics induced by the effective Hamiltonian on this bounded phase space and calculate the thermal equilibrium states. These are a result of the relaxation of spins' directions, identified with orbital planes' orientations, which is called vector resonant relaxation. I calculate the dependence of spins' angular velocity dispersion on temperature and calculate the velocity distribution functions. I argue that the range of validity of the gravitational phase transitions, identified in the special case of zero kinetic term by Roupas, Kocsis and Tremaine, is expanded to non-zero values of the ratio of masses between the cluster of N-bodies and the central massive object. The relevance with astrophysics is discussed focusing on stellar clusters. The same analysis performed on an unbounded phase space accounts for continuous rigid tops.

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