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7 Summary

Relativistic binaries are tracers for the rich dynamical evolution of globular clusters. The populations of these objects are the result of an interplay between the gravitational dynamics of large N-body systems, the dynamics of mass transfer, the details of stellar evolution, and the effect of the gravitational field of the galaxy. The gravitational dynamics of globular clusters can enhance the population of short period binaries of main-sequence stars as well as inject compact objects such as white dwarfs and neutron stars into stellar binary systems. Once they are in such systems, the details of stellar evolution and mass transfer in close binary systems govern the likely end products of the dynamical interaction between the two stars. Furthermore, most models of the evolution of the core of a globular cluster rely on the gradual hardening and ejection of binary systems to delay the onset of core collapse. The hardening of binaries in the core of globular clusters will produce relativistic binaries, but it will also eventually eject these systems as they gain larger and larger recoil velocities in each subsequent encounter. The threshold for ejection from a globular cluster depends both upon the gravitational potential of the cluster itself and the gravitational potential of its environment generated by the Milky Way. As the globular cluster orbits the Milky Way, its local environment changes. Consequently, if other dynamical processes (such as gravothermal oscillations) do not dominate, the globular cluster’s population of relativistic binaries may also reflect the past orbital history of the globular cluster.

Over the last decade, observational techniques and technology have improved to the extent that significant discoveries are being made regularly. At this point, the bottleneck in observations of binary millisecond pulsars, low-mass X-ray binaries, and cataclysmic variables is time, not technology. As these observational techniques are brought to bear on more clusters, more discoveries are bound to be made. In the next decade, the possibility of using gravitational wave astronomy to detect relativistic binaries brings the exciting possibility of identifying the populations of electromagnetically invisible objects such as detached white dwarf and neutron star binaries and black hole binaries in globular clusters. These observations can only help to improve the understanding of the complex and interesting evolution of these objects and their host globular clusters.


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