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Primordial Star Formation

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The first generation of stars, often called Population III (or Pop III ), form from metal-free primordial gas at redshifts z 30 and below. They dominate the cosmic star formation history until z 20-15, at which point the formation of metal-enriched Pop II stars takes over. I review current theoretical models for the formation, properties and impact of Pop III stars, and discuss observational constraints. I argue that primordial gas is highly susceptible to fragmentation and Pop III stars form as members of small clusters with a logarithmically flat mass function. Feedback from massive Pop III stars plays a central role in regulating subsequent star formation, but major uncertainties remain regarding its immediate impact. Direct observations of Pop III stars in the early Universe remain extremely challenging, whereas stellar archeological surveys allow us to constrain both the low-mass and the high-mass ends of the Pop III mass distribution. Observations suggest that most massive Pop III stars end their lives as core-collapse supernovae rather than as pair-instability supernovae.

This talk is part of the Kavli Institute for Cosmology Seminars series.

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