A tale of two distributions: from few to many vortices in quasi-two-dimensional Bose-Einstein condensates.
We examine existence and stability of relative equilibria of the nvortex problem specialized to the case where N vortices have small and equal circulation and one vortex has large circulation. As the small circulation tends to zero, the weak vortices tend to a circle centered on the strong vortex. A special potential function of this limiting problem can be used to characterize orbits and stability. Whenever a critical point of this function is nondegenerate, we prove that the orbit can be continued via the Implicit Function Theorem, and its linear stability is determined by the eigenvalues of the Hessian matrix of the potential. For N ≥ 3 there are at least three distinct families of critical points associated to the limiting problem. Assuming nondegeneracy, one of these families continues to a linearly stable class of relative equilibria with small and large circulation of the same sign. This class becomes unstable as the small circulation passes through zero and changes sign. Another family of critical points which is always nondegenerate continues to a configuration with small vortices arranged in an N -gon about the strong central vortex. This class of relative equilibria is linearly unstable regardless of the sign of the small circulation when N ≥ 4. Numerical results suggest that the third family of critical points of the limiting problem also continues to a linearly unstable class of solutions of the full problem independent of the sign of the small circulation. Thus there is evidence that linearly stable relative equilibria exist when the large and small circulation strengths are of the same sign, but that no such solutions exist when they have opposite signs. The results of this paper are in contrast to those of the analogous celestial mechanics problem, for which the N -gon is the only relative equilibrium for N sufficiently large, and is linearly stable if and only if N ≥ 7.