Journal Article

The first stars: formation of binaries and small multiple systems

Athena Stacy, Thomas H. Greif and Volker Bromm

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 403, issue 1, pages 45-60
Published in print March 2010 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online March 2010 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2009.16113.x
The first stars: formation of binaries and small multiple systems

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We investigate the formation of metal-free, Population III (Pop III), stars within a minihalo at z≃ 20 with a smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) simulation, starting from cosmological initial conditions. Employing a hierarchical, zoom-in procedure, we achieve sufficient numerical resolution to follow the collapsing gas in the centre of the minihalo up to number densities of 1012 cm−3. This allows us to study the protostellar accretion on to the initial hydrostatic core, which we represent as a growing sink particle, in improved physical detail. The accretion process, and in particular its termination, governs the final masses that were reached by the first stars. The primordial initial mass function, in turn, played an important role in determining to what extent the first stars drove early cosmic evolution. We continue our simulation for 5000 yr after the first sink particle has formed. During this time period, a disc-like configuration is assembled around the first protostar. The disc is gravitationally unstable, develops a pronounced spiral structure and fragments into several other protostellar seeds. At the end of the simulation, a small multiple system has formed, dominated by a binary with masses ∼40 and ∼10 M. If Pop III stars were to form typically in binaries or small multiples, the standard model of primordial star formation, where single, isolated stars are predicted to form in minihaloes, would have to be modified. This would have crucial consequences for the observational signature of the first stars, such as their nucleosynthetic pattern, and the gravitational wave emission from possible Pop III black hole binaries.

Keywords: stars: formation; galaxies: formation; cosmology: theory; early Universe

Journal Article.  11656 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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