Indexed on: 04 Oct '03Published on: 04 Oct '03Published in: Physical review. E, Statistical, nonlinear, and soft matter physics
Collapse and explosion (reverse to collapse) transitions in self-gravitating systems are studied by molecular dynamics simulations. A microcanonical ensemble of point particles confined to a spherical box is considered. The particles interact via an attractive soft Coulomb potential. It is observed that a collapse indeed takes place when the energy of the uniform state is set near or below the metastability-instability threshold (collapse energy) as predicted by the mean-field theory. Similarly, an explosion occurs when the energy of the core-halo state is increased above the explosion energy, where according to the mean-field predictions the core-halo state becomes unstable. For systems consisting of 125-500 particles, the collapse takes about 10(5) single-particle crossing times to complete, while a typical explosion is by an order of magnitude faster. A finite lifetime of metastable states is observed. It is also found that the mean-field description of the uniform and core-halo states is exact within the statistical uncertainty of the molecular dynamics data.