Abstract: Traditionally, a simulation of a dense stellar system required choosing an initial model, running an integrator, and analyzing the output. Almost all of the effort went into writing a clever integrator that could handle binaries, triples and encounters between various multiple systems efficiently. Recently, the scope and complexity of these simulations has increased dramatically, for three reasons: 1) the sheer size of the data sets, measured in Terabytes, make traditional 'awking and grepping' of a single output file impractical; 2) the addition of stellar evolution data brings qualitatively new challenges to the data reduction; 3) increased realism of the simulations invites realistic forms of 'SOS': Simulations of Observations of Simulations, to be compared directly with observations. We are now witnessing a shift toward the construction of archives as well as tailored forms of visualization including the use of virtual reality simulators and planetarium domes, and a coupling of both with budding efforts in constructing virtual observatories. This review describes these new trends, presenting Starlab as the first example of a full software environment for realistic large-scale simulations of dense stellar systems.
Credit: Hut, Piet; McMillan, Steve; Makino, Jun; Portegies Zwart, Simon