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Theses Doctoral

Modeling the formation, evolution, and observation of first stars

Kulkarni, Mihir Sanjay

Population III (Pop III) stars are the first generation stars forming after the big bang from primordial gas. This dissertation is focused on the various processes that suppress and delay the formation of Pop III stars in the universe and their implications for the observations. We studied the impacts of the Lyman-Werner (LW) radiation that dissociates molecular hydrogen, baryon-dark matter streaming velocity introduced at recombination, ionizing radiation from nearby galaxies, and a model for the composition of dark matter known as the fuzzy dark matter on the formation of Pop III stars.

Firstly, we take a closer look at the critical halo mass (Mcrit) that is the typical minimum dark matter halo mass needed to host cold dense gas to form the first stars using cosmological hydrodynamical simulations. LW radiation that dissociates molecular hydrogen and the baryon-dark matter streaming velocity both delay the formation of Pop III stars by increasing the critical halo mass. We describe our simulation suite with varying levels of LW radiation and streaming velocity to provide a fit for Mcrit as a function of LW radiation, streaming velocity, and redshift which can be used in semi-analytic models of early galaxy formation to make predictions for observations.

Secondly, we explore a possible mechanism for the formation of large clusters of Pop III stars: a nearby ionizing source that ionizes a late forming halo, delaying its collapse until the halo is sufficiently large enough that the core can self-shield and suffer runaway collapse. We use numerical simulations to examine the fragmentation of the gas near the runaway collapse using the simple estimates and sink particles to show that the number of fragments is generally small, at most a handful, and that the mass accretion rate on the fragments is of order 10⁻³ Msun/yr. This rate is sufficiently high enough that the descent on the main sequence (and hence the suppression of accretion) is delayed until the stellar masses are of order 100-1000 Msun, but not high enough to produce direct collapse black holes of mass ~ 10⁵ Msun. The resulting clusters are larger than those produced in minihalos but are still likely to fall short of being easily detectable in James Webb Space Telescope blind fields.

Finally, we investigate the formation of the first stars and galaxies in a fuzzy dark matter cosmology. Fuzzy dark matter, made up of ultra-light axions of mass ~ 10⁻²² eV, is a proposed alternative to the standard cold dark matter to solve its apparent small-scale problems. Its large de Broglie wavelength, of the order of kpc, results in the suppression of small-scale matter power, thus delaying the formation of the first stars and galaxies to lower redshift in much more massive halos. Therefore, first stars can be used to put very strong constraints on the mass of the fuzzy dark matter. We describe our cosmological simulations that accurately evolve the fuzzy dark matter distribution to study the formation of the first stars and galaxies.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Bryan, Greg L.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 18, 2021