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The simulations provide clues about the mass of the first stars, Population III stars

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A fragment of the simulation of the first Pop III stars. Credit: ASIAA/Ke-Jung Chen

The first stars of the universe must have consisted of only the two lightest elements of the early universe, which were hydrogen and helium produced in the Big Bang. These stars must have appeared for the first time about 200 million years after the Big Bang, the so-called Population III stars. It is a hypothetical class of stars, because no stars have ever been observed, and the reason is not that difficult: because they existed only shortly after the Big Bang and had a short but intense life that ended in a thunderous supernova explosion, during which they enriched the universe with heavier elements, such as oxygen and carbon. Observations made in the so-called very metal poor (EMP) stars that existed after Population III stars and have been observed indicate that Population III stars were probably very massive, somewhere between 12 and 50 solar masses. However, previous cosmological simulations indicated an even higher mass, from 50 to even 1000 solar masses. So there is a big gap between theory and observations.

Simulating structures in the early universe. Dark matter network in gray, places where pop III stars form in bright colors. Credit: ASIAA / Ke-Jung Chen

But now the duo is Ching-Yao Tang and Ke-Jung Chen Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Academia Sinica (ASIAA) used a supercomputer at Berkeley National Lab to create three-dimensional hydrodynamic high-resolution simulations of the gas clouds from which Population III stars must have originated. Due to supersonic turbulence, these gas clouds must have shrunk into pieces of 22-175 solar masses, and Pop III stars with masses of 8-58 solar masses must have risen from this. And it fits the observations made very well!

You can read more about this in the professional article Clumpy structures in the turbulent primordial cloud by Ching-Yao Tang et al., Monthly Bulletins of the Royal Astronomical Society (2024).



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