The first Population II stars formed in externally enriched mini-haloes

Britton D. Smith, John H. Wise, Brian W. O'Shea, Michael L. Norman, Sadegh Khochfar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a simulation of the formation of the earliest Population II stars, starting from cosmological initial conditions and ending when metals created in the first supernovae are incorporated into a collapsing gas cloud. This occurs after a supernova blast-wave collides with a nearby mini-halo, inducing further turbulence that efficiently mixes metals into the dense gas in the centre of the halo. The gas that first collapses has been enriched to a metallicity of Z ∼ 2 × 10−5 Z. Due to the extremely low metallicity, collapse proceeds similarly to metal-free gas until dust cooling becomes efficient at high densities, causing the cloud to fragment into a large number of low-mass objects. This external enrichment mechanism provides a plausible origin for the most metal-poor stars observed, such as SMSS J031300.36-670839.3, that appear to have formed out of gas enriched by a single supernova. This mechanism operates on shorter time-scales than the time for low-mass mini-haloes (M ≤ 5 × 105 M) to recover their gas after experiencing a supernova. As such, metal-enriched stars will likely form first via this channel if the conditions are right for it to occur. We identify a number of other externally enriched haloes that may form stars in this manner. These haloes have metallicities as high as 0.01 Z, suggesting that some members of the first generation of metal-enriched stars may be hiding in plain sight in current stellar surveys.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2822-2836
Number of pages15
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date28 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sep 2015


  • hydrodynamics
  • radiative transfer
  • methods: numerical
  • galaxies: star formation


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