University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy
Home > People >


Alexander Heger

Nucleosynthesis and Evolution of Massive Metal-free Stars
Heger, A, Woosley, S. E, The Astrophysical Journal

Download from


The evolution and explosion of metal-free stars with masses 10-100 M sun are followed, and their nucleosynthetic yields, light curves, and remnant masses determined. Such stars would have been the first to form after the big bang and may have left a distinctive imprint on the composition of the early universe. When the supernova yields are integrated over a Salpeter initial mass function (IMF), the resulting elemental abundance pattern is qualitatively solar, but with marked deficiencies of odd-Z elements with 7 <= Z <= 13. Neglecting the contribution of the neutrino wind from the neutron stars that they form, no appreciable abundances are made for elements heavier than germanium. The computed pattern compares favorably with what has been observed in metal-deficient stars with [Z] <~ –3. The amount of ionizing radiation from this generation of stars is ~2.16 MeV per baryon (4.15 B per M sun; where 1 B = 1 Bethe = 1051 erg) for a Salpeter IMF, and may have played a role in reionizing the universe. Neglecting rotation, most of the stars end their lives as blue supergiants and form supernovae with distinctive light curves resembling SN 1987A, but some produce primary nitrogen due to dredge-up and become red supergiants. These make brighter supernovae like typical Type IIp's. For the lower mass supernovae considered, the distribution of remnant masses clusters around typical modern neutron star masses, but above 20-30 M sun, with the value depending on explosion energy, black holes are copiously formed by fallback, with a maximum hole mass of ~40 M sun. A novel automated fitting algorithm is developed for determining optimal combinations of explosion energy, mixing, and IMF in the large model database to agree with specified data sets. The model is applied to the low-metallicity sample of Cayrel et al. and the two ultra-iron-poor stars HE0107-5240 and HE1327-2326. Best agreement with these very low metallicity stars is achieved with very little mixing, and none of the metal-deficient data sets considered show the need for a high-energy explosion component. In contrast, explosion energies somewhat less than 1.2 B seem to be preferred in most cases.