The role of galaxy mergers on the evolution of star clusters
Interacting galaxies favor the formation of star clusters but are also suspected to affect their evolution through an intense and rapidly varying tidal field. Treating this complex behaviour remains out-of-reach of (semi-)analytical studies. By computing the tidal field from galactic models and including it into star-by-star N-body simulations of star clusters, we monitor the structure and mass evolution of a population of clusters in a galaxy major merger, taking the Antennae galaxies (NGC 4038/39) as a prototype. On the long timescale (~ 10^9 yr), the merger only indirectly affects the evolution of clusters by modifying their orbits in or around the galaxies: the mass-loss of clusters in the merger remnant is faster, while clusters ejected in the tidal debris survive much longer, compared to in an isolated galaxy. The tidal perturbations of the galactic collisions themselves are too short lived and not strong enough to significantly influence the structure and dissolution of realistically dense/massive star clusters.