The mass distribution of population III stars

M. Fraser, A R Casey, G. Gilmore, A Heger, C Chan

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31 Citations (Scopus)


Extremely metal-poor (EMP) stars are uniquely informative on the nature of massive Population III stars. Modulo a few elements that vary with stellar evolution, the present-day photospheric abundances observed in EMP stars are representative of their natal gas cloud composition. For this reason, the chemistry of EMP stars closely reflects the nucleosynthetic yields of supernovae from massive Population III stars. Here we collate detailed abundances of 53 EMP stars from the literature and infer the masses of their Population III progenitors. We fit a simple initial mass function (IMF) to a subset of 29 of the inferred Population III star masses, and find that the mass distribution is well represented by a power-law IMF with exponent a = 2.35+0.29 -0.24. The inferred maximum progenitor mass for supernovae from massive Population III stars is Mmax = 87+13 -33 M⊙, and we find no evidence in our sample for a contribution from stars with masses above ~120 M⊙. The minimum mass is strongly consistent with the theoretical lower mass limit for Population III supernovae. We conclude that the IMF for massive Population III stars is consistent with the IMF of present-day massive stars and there may well have formed stars much below the supernova mass limit that could have survived to the present day.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)418-425
Number of pages8
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2017


  • Stars: abundances
  • Stars: formation
  • Stars: population III
  • Supernovae: general

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