Research Highlights

May 2020: Formation sites of Population III star formation: The effects of different levels of rotation and turbulence on the fragmentation behaviour of primordial gas

Wollenberg, Katharina M. J., Glover, Simon C. O., Clark, Paul C., Klessen, Ralf S., MNRAS, 494, 1871-1893 (2020) [ADS link]

Fragmentation of the accretion disk in Population III star formation.
Fragmentation of the accretion disk in Population III star formation.

We use the moving-mesh code Arepo to investigate the effects of different levels of rotation and turbulence on the fragmentation of primordial gas and the formation of Population III stars. We consider nine different combinations of turbulence and rotation and carry out five different realizations of each setup, yielding one of the largest sets of simulations of Population III star formation ever performed. We find that fragmentation in Population III star-forming systems is a highly chaotic process and show that the outcomes of individual realizations of the same initial conditions often vary significantly. However, some general trends are apparent. Increasing the turbulent energy promotes fragmentation, while increasing the rotational energy inhibits fragmentation. Within the ~1000 yr period that we simulate, runs including turbulence yield flat protostellar mass functions while purely rotational runs show a more top-heavy distribution. The masses of the individual protostars are distributed over a wide range from a few 10-3 M to several tens of M. The total mass growth rate of the stellar systems remains high throughout the simulations and depends only weakly on the degree of rotation and turbulence. Mergers between protostars are common, but predictions of the merger fraction are highly sensitive to the criterion used to decide whether two protostars should merge. Previous studies of Population III star formation have often considered only one realization per set of initial conditions. However, our results demonstrate that robust trends can only be reliably identified by considering averages over a larger sample of runs.


April 2020: The Cloud Factory I: Generating resolved filamentary molecular clouds from galactic-scale forces

Smith, Rowan J., Treß, Robin G., Sormani, Mattia C., Glover, Simon C. O., Klessen, Ralf S., Clark, Paul C., Izquierdo, Andrés F., Duarte-Cabral, Ana, Zucker, Catherine, MNRAS, 492, 1594-1613 (2020) [ADS link]

Synthetic cloud with newly formed stars from the Cloud Factory simulation.

We introduce a new suite of simulations, `The Cloud Factory‘, which self-consistently forms molecular cloud complexes at high enough resolution to resolve internal substructure (up to 0.25 M☉ in mass) all while including galactic-scale forces. We use a version of the AREPO code modified to include a detailed treatment of the physics of the cold molecular ISM, and an analytical galactic gravitational potential for computational efficiency. The simulations have nested levels of resolution, with the lowest layer tied to tracer particles injected into individual cloud complexes. These tracer refinement regions are embedded in the larger simulation so continue to experience forces from outside the cloud. This allows the simulations to act as a laboratory for testing the effect of galactic environment on star formation. Here we introduce our method and investigate the effect of galactic environment on filamentary clouds. We find that cloud complexes formed after a clustered burst of feedback have shorter lengths and are less likely to fragment compared to quiescent clouds (e.g. the Musca filament) or those dominated by the galactic potential (e.g. Nessie). Spiral arms and differential rotation preferentially align filaments, but strong feedback randomizes them. Long filaments formed within the cloud complexes are necessarily coherent with low internal velocity gradients, which has implications for the formation of filamentary star-clusters. Cloud complexes formed in regions dominated by supernova feedback have fewer star-forming cores, and these are more widely distributed. These differences show galactic-scale forces can have a significant impact on star formation within molecular clouds.


March 2020: Simulations of the star-forming molecular gas in an interacting M51-like galaxy

Tress, Robin G., Smith, Rowan J., Sormani, Mattia C., Glover, Simon C. O., Klessen, Ralf S., Mac Low, Mordecai-Mark, Clark, Paul C., MNRAS, 492, 2973-2995 (2020) [ADS link]

Emission map of the M51 simulation post-processed with the Polaris RT code.

We present here the first of a series of papers aimed at better understanding the evolution and properties of giant molecular clouds (GMCs) in a galactic context. We perform high-resolution, three-dimensional AREPO simulations of an interacting galaxy inspired by the well-observed M51 galaxy. Our fiducial simulations include a non-equilibrium, time-dependent, chemical network that follows the evolution of atomic and molecular hydrogen as well as carbon and oxygen self-consistently. Our calculations also treat gas self-gravity and subsequent star formation (described by sink particles), and coupled supernova feedback. In the densest parts of the simulated interstellar medium (ISM), we reach sub-parsec resolution, granting us the ability to resolve individual GMCs and their formation and destruction self-consistently throughout the galaxy. In this initial work, we focus on the general properties of the ISM with a particular focus on the cold star-forming gas. We discuss the role of the interaction with the companion galaxy in generating cold molecular gas and controlling stellar birth. We find that while the interaction drives large-scale gas flows and induces spiral arms in the galaxy, it is of secondary importance in determining gas fractions in the different ISM phases and the overall star formation rate. The behaviour of the gas on small GMC scales instead is mostly controlled by the self-regulating property of the ISM driven by coupled feedback.


February 2020: When H II regions are complicated: considering perturbations from winds, radiation pressure, and other effects

Geen, Sam, Pellegrini, Eric C., Bieri, Rebekka, Klessen, Ralf S.: MNRAS, 492, 915 – 933 (2020) [ADS link]

Illustration of the evolution of HII regions.

We explore to what extent simple algebraic models can be used to describe H II regions when winds, radiation pressure, gravity, and photon breakout are included. We (a) develop algebraic models to describe the expansion of photoionized H II regions under the influence of gravity and accretion in power-law density fields with ρ ∝ r-w, (b) determine when terms describing winds, radiation pressure, gravity, and photon breakout become significant enough to affect the dynamics of the H II region where w = 2, and (c) solve these expressions for a set of physically motivated conditions. We find that photoionization feedback from massive stars is the principal mode of feedback on molecular cloud scales, driving accelerating outflows from molecular clouds in cases where the peaked density structure around young massive stars is considered at radii between  ~0.1 and 10-100 pc. Under a large range of conditions the effect of winds and radiation on the dynamics of H II regions is around 10 per cent of the contribution from photoionization. The effect of winds and radiation pressure is most important at high densities, either close to the star or in very dense clouds such as those in the Central Molecular Zone of the Milky Way. Out to  ~0.1 pc they are the principal drivers of the H II region. Lower metallicities make the relative effect of photoionization even stronger as the ionized gas temperature is higher.


January 2020: Detecting strongly lensed supernovae at z ~ 5-7 with LSST

Rydberg, Claes-Erik, Whalen, Daniel J., Maturi, Matteo, Collett, Thomas, Carrasco, Mauricio, Magg, Mattis, Klessen, Ralf S.: MNRAS, 491, 2447 – 2459 (2020) [ADS link]

Supernova rates as function of redshift.
Predicted supernova rates as function of redshift.

Supernovae (SNe) could be powerful probes of the properties of stars and galaxies at high redshifts in future surveys. Wide fields and longer exposure times are required to offset diminishing star formation rates and lower fluxes to detect useful number of events at high redshift. In principle, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) could discover large numbers of early SNe because of its wide fields but only at lower redshifts because of its AB mag limit of ∼24. However, gravitational lensing by galaxy clusters and massive galaxies could boost flux from ancient SNe and allow LSST to detect them at earlier times. Here, we calculate detection rates for lensed SNe at z ∼ 5-7 for LSST. We find that the LSST Wide Fast Deep survey could detect up to 120 lensed Population (Pop) I and II SNe but no lensed Pop III SNe. Deep-drilling programs in 10 square degree fields could detect Pop I and II core-collapse SNe at AB magnitudes of 27-28 and 26, respectively.


December 2019: SIGNALS – I. Survey description

Rousseau-Nepton, L., Martin, R. P., Robert, C., Drissen, L., Amram, P., Prunet, S., Martin, T., Moumen, I., Adamo, A., Alarie, A., Barmby, P., Boselli, A., Bresolin, F., Bureau, M., Chemin, L., Fernandes, R. C., Combes, F., Crowder, C., Della Bruna, L., Duarte Puertas, S. Egusa, F., Epinat, B., Ksoll, V. F., Girard, M., Gómez Llanos, V., Gouliermis, D., Grasha, K., Higgs, C., Hlavacek-Larrondo, J., Ho, I.-T., Iglesias-Páramo, J., Joncas, G., Kam, Z. S., Karera, P., Kennicutt, R. C., Klessen, R. S., Lianou, S., Liu, L., Liu, Q., de Amorim, A. Luiz, Lyman, J. D., Martel, H., Mazzilli-Ciraulo, B., McLeod, A. F., Melchior, A.-L., Millan, I., Mollá, M., Momose, R., Morisset, C., Pan, H.-A., Pati, A. K., Pellerin, A., Pellegrini, E., Pérez, I., Petric, A., Plana, H., Rahner, D., Ruiz Lara, T., Sánchez-Menguiano, L., Spekkens, K., Stasińska, G., Takamiya, M., Vale Asari, N., Vílchez, J. M.: MNRAS, 489, 5530 – 5546 (2019) [ADS link]


Comparison of a giant HII region observed with SITELLE in NGC6822 with a 1D photoionization WARPFIELD model.

SIGNALS, the Star formation, Ionized Gas, and Nebular Abundances Legacy Survey, is a large observing programme designed to investigate massive star formation and H II regions in a sample of local extended galaxies. The programme will use the imaging Fourier transform spectrograph SITELLE at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. Over 355 h (54.7 nights) have been allocated beginning in fall 2018 for eight consecutive semesters. Once completed, SIGNALS will provide a statistically reliable laboratory to investigate massive star formation, including over 50 000 resolved H II regions: the largest, most complete, and homogeneous data base of spectroscopically and spatially resolved extragalactic H II regions ever assembled. For each field observed, three datacubes covering the spectral bands of the filters SN1 (363-386 nm), SN2 (482-513 nm), and SN3 (647-685 nm) are gathered. The spectral resolution selected for each spectral band is 1000, 1000, and 5000, respectively. As defined, the project sample will facilitate the study of small-scale nebular physics and many other phenomena linked to star formation at a mean spatial resolution of ̃20 pc. This survey also has considerable legacy value for additional topics, including planetary nebulae, diffuse ionized gas, and supernova remnants. The purpose of this paper is to present a general outlook of the survey, notably the observing strategy, galaxy sample, and science requirements.


November 2019: Radiative Transfer with POLARIS. II. Modeling of Synthetic Galactic Synchrotron Observations

Reissl, Stefan, Brauer, Robert, Klessen, Ralf S., Pellegrini, Eric W.: ApJ, 885, 15, 1 – 17 (2019) [ADS link]

Synthetic synchrotron emission at 734.8 mm from model galaxy computed with Polaris.

We present an updated version of POLARIS, a well-established code designated for dust polarization and line radiative transfer (RT) in arbitrary astrophysical environments. We extend the already available capabilities with a synchrotron feature for polarized emission. Here, we combine state-of-the-art solutions of the synchrotron RT coefficients with numerical methods for solving the complete system of equations of the RT problem, including Faraday rotation (FR) as well as Faraday conversion (FC). We validate the code against Galactic and extragalactic observations by performing a statistical analysis of synthetic all-sky synchrotron maps for positions within the Galaxy and for extragalactic observations. For these test scenarios we apply a model of the Milky Way based on sophisticated magnetohydrodynamic simulations and population synthesis post-processing techniques. We explore different parameters for modeling the distribution of free electrons and for a turbulent magnetic field component. We find that a strongly fluctuating field is necessary for simulating synthetic synchrotron observations on small scales, we argue that FR alone can account for the depolarization of the synchrotron signal, and we discuss the importance of the observer position within the Milky Way. Altogether, we conclude that POLARIS is a highly reliable tool for predicting synchrotron emission and polarization, including FR in a realistic galactic context. It can thus contribute to a better understanding of the results from current and future observational missions.


October 2019: Maximally accreting supermassive stars: a fundamental limit imposed by hydrostatic equilibrium

Haemmerlé, L., Meynet, G., Mayer, L., Klessen, R. S., Woods, T. E., Heger, A.: A&A, 632, L2, 1 – 5 (2019) [ADS link]

Limits to hydrostatic equilibrium for accretion above 1000 solar masses per year (without rotation).

Major mergers of gas-rich galaxies provide promising conditions for the formation of supermassive black holes (SMBHs; ≳105 M) by direct collapse because they can trigger mass inflows as high as 104 – 105 M yr-1 on sub-parsec scales. However, the channel of SMBH formation in this case, either dark collapse (direct collapse without prior stellar phase) or supermassive star (SMS; ≳104 M), remains unknown. We investigate the limit in accretion rate up to which stars can maintain hydrostatic equilibrium. We compute hydrostatic models of SMSs accreting at 1-1000 M yr-1, and estimate the departures from equilibrium a posteriori by taking into account the finite speed of sound. We find that stars accreting above the atomic cooling limit (≳10 M yr-1) can only maintain hydrostatic equilibrium once they are supermassive. In this case, they evolve adiabatically with a hylotropic structure, that is, entropy is locally conserved and scales with the square root of the mass coordinate. Our results imply that stars can only become supermassive by accretion at the rates of atomically cooled haloes (~0.1 – 10 M yr-1). Once they are supermassive, larger rates are possible.

September 2019: WARPFIELD-EMP: The self-consistent prediction of emission lines from evolving HII regions in dense molecular clouds

Pellegrini, Eric C., Rahner, Daniel, Reissl, Stefan, Glover, Simon C. O., Klessen, Ralf S., Rousseau-Nepton, L, Herrera-Camus, R., MNRAS, submitted (2019) [arXiv:1909.09651 — ADS link]

Comparison between WARPFIELD-EMP models and observational data in NGC 628

We present the WARPFIELD emission predictor, WARPFIELD-EMP which couples the 1D stellar feedback code WARPFIELD with the CLOUDY HII region/PDR code and the POLARIS radiative transfer code, in order to make detailed predictions for the time-dependent line and continuum emission arising from the H{\sc ii} region and PDR surrounding an evolving star cluster. WARPFIELD-EMP accounts for a wide range of physical processes (stellar winds, supernovae, radiation pressure, gravity, thermal conduction, radiative cooling, dust extinction etc.) and yet runs quickly enough to allow us to explore broad ranges of different cloud parameters. We compare the results of an extensive set of models with SITELLE observations of a large sample of HII regions in NGC 628 and find very good agreement, particularly for the highest signal-to-noise observations. We show that our approach of modeling individual clouds from first principles (instead of in terms of dimensionless quantities such as the ionization parameter) allows us to avoid long-standing degeneracies in the interpretation of HII region diagnostics and enables us to relate these diagnostics to important physical parameters such as cloud mass or cluster age. Finally, we explore the implications of our models regarding the reliability of simple metallicity diagnostics, the properties of long-lived embedded clusters, and the role played by winds and supernovae in regulating HII region and PDR line emission.


August 2019: Optimal neighbourhood to nurture giants: a fundamental link between star-forming galaxies and direct collapse black holes

Agarwal, Bhaskar, Cullen, Fergus, Khochfar, Sadegh, Ceverino, Daniel, Klessen, Ralf S.: MNRAS, 488, 3268 – 3273 (2019) [ADS link]

Galaxies in the H2 photodissociation (kdi) and H photodetachment (kde) rate plane. The rates (and thus the critial Lyman-Werner flux JLW ) is computed at half the virial radius.

Massive 104-5 M black hole seeds resulting from the direct collapse of pristine gas require a metal-free atomic cooling halo with extremely low H2 fraction, allowing the gas to cool isothermally in the presence of atomic hydrogen. In order to achieve this chemo-thermodynamical state, the gas needs to be irradiated by both Lyman-Werner (LW) photons in the energy range of 11.2-13.6 eV capable of photodissociating H2 and 0.76 eV photons capable of photodetaching H. Employing cosmological simulations capable of creating the first galaxies in high resolution, we explore if there exists a subset of galaxies that favour direct collapse black hole (DCBH) formation in their vicinity. We find a fundamental relation between the maximum distance at which a galaxy can cause DCBH formation and its star formation rate (SFR), which automatically folds in the chemo-thermodynamical effects of both H2 photodissociation and H photodetachment. This is in contrast to the approximately three order of magnitude scatter seen in the LW flux parameter computed at the maximum distance, which is synonymous with a scatter in `Jcrit‚. Thus, computing the rates and/or the LW flux from a galaxy is no longer necessary to identify neighbouring sites of DCBH formation, as our relation allows one to distinguish regions where DCBH formation could be triggered in the vicinity of a galaxy of a given SFR.


July 2019: Histogram of oriented gradients: a technique for the study of molecular cloud formation

Soler, J. D., Beuther, H., Rugel, M., Wang, Y., Clark, P. C., Glover, S. C. O., Goldsmith, P. F., Heyer, M., Anderson, L. D., Goodman, A., Henning, T., Kainulainen, J., Klessen, R. S., Longmore, S. N., McClure-Griffiths, N. M., Menten, K. M., Mottram, J. C., Ott, J., Ragan, S. E., Smith, R. J., Urquhart, J. S., Bigiel, F. , Hennebelle, P., Roy, N., Schilke, P.: A&A, 622, A166, 1 – 31  (2019)  [ADS link]

Results of the histogram of oriented gradients (HOG) analysis of the THOR HI and GRS 13CO observations,

We introduce the histogram of oriented gradients (HOG), a tool developed for machine vision that we propose as a new metric for the systematic characterization of spectral line observations of atomic and molecular gas and the study of molecular cloud formation models. In essence, the HOG technique takes as input extended spectral-line observations from two tracers and provides an estimate of their spatial correlation across velocity channels. We characterized HOG using synthetic observations of HI and 13CO (J = 1 → 0) emission from numerical simulations of magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) turbulence leading to the formation of molecular gas after the collision of two atomic clouds. We found a significant spatial correlation between the two tracers in velocity channels where vHI ≈ v13CO, almost independent of the orientation of the collision with respect to the line of sight. Subsequently, we used HOG to investigate the spatial correlation of the HI, from The HI/OH/recombination line survey of the inner Milky Way (THOR), and the 13CO (J = 1 → 0) emission from the Galactic Ring Survey (GRS), toward the portion of the Galactic plane 33°.75 ≤ l ≤ 35°.25 and |b| ≤ 1°.25. We found a significant spatial correlation between the two tracers in extended portions of the studied region. Although some of the regions with high spatial correlation are associated with HI self-absorption (HISA) features, suggesting that it is produced by the cold atomic gas, the correlation is not exclusive to this kind of region. The HOG results derived for the observational data indicate significant differences between individual regions: some show spatial correlation in channels around vHI ≈ v13CO while others present spatial correlations in velocity channels separated by a few kilometers per second. We associate these velocity offsets to the effect of feedback and to the presence of physical conditions that are not included in the atomic-cloud-collision simulations, such as more general magnetic field configurations, shear, and global gas infall.


June 2019: The relation between the true and observed fractal dimensions of turbulent clouds

Beattie, James R., Federrath, Christoph, Klessen, Ralf S.: MNRAS, 487, 2070 – 2081 (2019)  [ADS link]

The empirical relation between the true 3D fractal dimension (D3D) and the resulting projected 2D fractal dimension (Dp) .

Observations of interstellar gas clouds are typically limited to two-dimensional (2D) projections of the intrinsically three-dimensional (3D) structure of the clouds. In this study, we present a novel method for relating the 2D projected fractal dimension (Dp) to the 3D fractal dimension (D3D) of turbulent clouds. We do this by computing the fractal dimension of clouds over two orders of magnitude in turbulent Mach number (M = 1 – 100), corresponding to seven orders of magnitude in spatial scales within the clouds. This provides us with the data to create a new empirical relation between Dp and D3D. The minimum 3D fractal dimension, D3D,min = 2.06 ± 0.35, indicates that in the high M limit the 3D clouds are dominated by planar shocks. The relation between Dp and D3D of molecular clouds may be a useful tool for those who are seeking to understand the 3D structures of molecular clouds, purely based upon 2D projected data and shows promise for relating the physics of the turbulent clouds to the fractal dimension.


May 2019: The geometry of the gas surrounding the Central Molecular Zone: on the origin of localised molecular clouds with extreme velocity dispersions

Sormani, Mattia C., Treß, Robin G., Glover, Simon C. O., Klessen, Ralf S., Barnes, Ashley T., Battersby, Cara D., Clark, Paul C., Hatchfield, H. Perry, Smith, Rowan J.: MNRAS, tmp 1994, (2019)  [ADS link]

Features in the (x,y) plane and their projection to the (l,v) plane for a simulation of the CMZ. Arrows in the left panels show the velocity field in the rotating frame of the bar. Labels mark some of the interesting features.

Observations of molecular gas near the Galactic centre (|l| < 10°, |b| < 1°) reveal the presence of a distinct population of enigmatic compact clouds which are characterised by extreme velocity dispersions (∆v > 100 km s-1). These Extended Velocity Features (EVFs) are very prominent in the datacubes and dominate the kinematics of molecular gas just outside the Central Molecular Zone (CMZ). The prototypical example of such a cloud is Bania Clump 2. We show that similar features are naturally produced in simulations of gas flow in a realistic barred potential. We analyse the structure of the features obtained in the simulations and use this to interpret the observations. We find that the features arise from collisions between material that has been infalling rapidly along the dust lanes of the Milky Way bar and material that belongs to one of the following two categories: (i) material that has `overshot‘ after falling down the dust lanes on the opposite side; (ii) material which is part of the CMZ. Both types of collisions involve gas with large differences in the line-of-sight velocities, which is what produces the observed extreme velocity dispersions. Examples of both categories can be identified in the observations. If our interpretation is correct, we are directly witnessing (a) collisions of clouds with relative speeds of  about 200 km/s and (b) the process of accretion of fresh gas onto the CMZ.


April 2019: Observational constraints on the survival of pristine stars

Magg, Mattis, Klessen, Ralf S., Glover, Simon C. O., Li, Haining: MNRAS, 487, 486-490 484, (2019)  [ADS link]

Probability of not detecting metal-free stars until today, as function of halo mass. We show the probabilities derived from ultra metal-poor (UMP, blue diamonds) and extremely metal-poor (EMP, orange triangles) star detections separately and combined (green circles). The UMP stars give much tighter constraints than the EMP stars.

There is a longstanding discussion about whether low-mass stars can form from pristine gas in the early Universe. A particular point of interest is whether we can find surviving pristine stars from the first generation in our local neighbourhood. We present here a simple analytical estimate that puts tighter constraints on the existence of such stars. In the conventional picture, should these stars have formed in significant numbers and have preserved their pristine chemical composition until today, we should have found them already. With the presented method most current predictions for survivor counts larger than zero can be ruled out.


March 2019: The influence of streaming velocities on the formation of the first stars

Schauer, Anna T. P., Glover, Simon C. O., Klessen, Ralf S., Ceverino, Daniel: MNRAS, 484, 3510-3521 (2019)  [ADS link]

Baryon fraction in haloes with masses larger than 105 M as a function of redshift. In the case of zero streaming velocity (light green), the value approaches the cosmic mean (dashed line). For all simulations with non-zero streaming velocities (blue, dark green, grey), it is well below that value. The shaded regions show the respective standard deviations.

How, when, and where the first stars formed are fundamental questions regarding the epoch of cosmic dawn. A second-order effect in the fluid equations was recently found to make a significant contribution: an offset velocity between gas and dark matter, the so-called streaming velocity. Previous simulations of a limited number of low-mass dark matter haloes suggest that this streaming velocity can delay the formation of the first stars and decrease halo gas fractions and the halo mass function in the low-mass regime. However, a systematic exploration of its effects in a large sample of haloes has been lacking until now. In this paper, we present results from a set of cosmological simulations of regions of the Universe with different streaming velocities performed with the moving mesh code AREPO. Our simulations have very high mass resolution, enabling us to accurately resolve minihaloes as small as 105 M. We show that in the absence of streaming, the least massive halo that contains cold gas has a mass Mhalo, min = 5 × 105 M, but that cooling only becomes efficient in a majority of haloes for halo masses greater than Mhalo, 50% = 1.6 × 106 M. In regions with non-zero streaming velocities, Mhalo, min and Mhalo, 50% both increase significantly, by around a factor of a few for each one sigma increase in the value of the local streaming velocity. As a result, in regions with streaming velocities v_stream ≥ 3 σrms, cooling of gas in minihaloes is completely suppressed, implying that the first stars in these regions form within atomic cooling haloes.


FEBRUARY 2019: FirstLight III: rest-frame UV-optical spectral energy distributions of simulated galaxies at cosmic dawn

Ceverino, Daniel, Klessen, Ralf S., Glover, Simon C. O.: MNRAS, 484, 1366-1377 (2019)  [ADS link]

Stellar mass versus M1500, coloured by sSFR at z=6 (from Ceverino et al. 2019).

Using the FirstLight data base of 300 zoom-in cosmological simulations we provide rest-frame UV-optical spectral energy distributions of galaxies with complex star-formation histories that are coupled to the non-uniform gas accretion history of galactic haloes during cosmic dawn. The population at any redshift is very diverse ranging from starbursts to quiescent galaxies even at a fixed stellar mass. This drives a redshift-dependent relation between UV luminosity and stellar mass with a large scatter, driven by the specific star formation rate. The UV slope and the production efficiency of Lyman continuum photons have high values, consistent with dust-corrected observations. This indicates young stellar populations with low metallicities. The FirstLight simulations make predictions on the rest-frame UV-optical absolute magnitudes, colours, and optical emission lines of galaxies at z = 6-12 that will be observed for the first time with James Webb Space Telescope and the next generation of telescopes in the coming decade.


JANUARY 2019: WARPFIELD 2.0 — feedback-regulated minimum star formation efficiencies of giant molecular clouds

Rahner, Daniel, Pellegrini, Eric W., Glover, Simon C. O., Klessen, Ralf S.: MNRAS, 483, 2547-2560 (2019)   [ADS link]

Schematic view of the cloud / cluster model used in WARPFIELD (Figure 1 of Rahner et al. 2019)

Star formation is an inefficient process and in general only a small fraction of the gas in a giant molecular cloud (GMC) is turned into stars. This is partly due to the negative effect of stellar feedback from young massive star clusters. Recently, we introduced a novel 1D numerical treatment of the effects of stellar feedback from young massive clusters on their natal clouds, which we named WARPFIELD. Here, we present version 2 of the WARPFIELD code, containing improved treatments of the thermal evolution of the gas and the fragmentation of the feedback-driven shell. As part of this update, we have produced new cooling and heating tables that account for the combined effects of photoionization and collisional ionization on the cooling rate, which we now make publicly available. We employ our updated version of WARPFIELD to investigate the impact of stellar feedback on GMCs with a broad range of masses and surface densities and a variety of density profiles. We show that the minimum star formation efficiency (SFE) ɛmin, i.e. the SFE above which the cloud is destroyed by feedback, is mainly set by the average cloud surface density. An SFE of 1-6 per cent is generally sufficient to destroy a GMC. We also find an SFE per free-fall time ɛff ˜ 0.3 per cent, in good agreement with recent observations. Our results imply that feedback alone is sufficient to explain the low observed SFE of GMCs. Finally, we show that very massive clouds with steep density profiles – possible proxies of the giant clumps observed in galaxies at z ≈ 2 – are more resilient to feedback than typical GMCs, with ɛmin between 1 and 12 per cent. 

December 2018: Fingerprint of the first stars: multi-enriched extremely metal-poor stars in the TOPOS

Hartwig, Tilman, Ishigaki, Miho, Klessen, Ralf S., Yoshida, Naoki, MNRAS, 482, 1204–1210 (2019)  [ADS LINK]

Divergence of the chemical displacement (DCD) as a function of the abundances of calcium and magnesium relative (Figure 1 of Hartwig et al. 2019)

Extremely metal-poor (EMP) stars in the Milky Way inherited the chemical composition of the gas out of which they formed. They therefore carry the chemical fingerprint of the first stars in their spectral lines. It is commonly assumed that EMP stars form from gas that was enriched by only one progenitor supernova (‘mono-enriched’). However, recent numerical simulations show that the first stars form in small clusters. Consequently, we expect several supernovae to contribute to the abundances of an EMP star (‘multi-enriched’). We analyse seven recently observed EMP stars from the TOPoS survey by applying the divergence of the chemical displacement and find that J1035+0641 is mono-enriched (⁠pmono=53 per cent⁠) and J1507+0051 is multi-enriched (⁠pmono=4 per cent⁠). For the remaining five stars, we cannot make a distinct prediction (⁠pmono≲50 per cent⁠) due to theoretical and observational uncertainties. Further observations in the near-UV will help to improve our diagnostic and therefore contribute to constrain the nature of the first stars.

NoVember 2018: A dynamical mechanism for the origin of nuclear rings

Sormani, Mattia C., Sobacchi, Emanuele, Fragkoudi, Francesca, Ridley, Matthew, Treß, Robin G., Glover, Simon C. O., Klessen, Ralf S., MNRAS, 481, 2 -19 (2018)  [ADS LINK]

Velocity field in the center of the model galaxy (Figure 10 from Sormani et al. 2018)

We develop a dynamical theory for the origin of nuclear rings in barred galaxies. In analogy with the standard theory of accretion discs, our theory is based on shear viscous forces among nested annuli of gas. However, the fact that gas follows non-circular orbits in an external barred potential has profound consequences: it creates a region of reverse shear in which it is energetically favourable to form a stable ring that does not spread despite dissipation. Our theory allows us to approximately predict the size of the ring given the underlying gravitational potential. The size of the ring is loosely related to the location of the Inner Lindblad Resonance in the epicyclic approximation, but the predicted location is more accurate and is also valid for strongly barred potentials. By comparing analytical predictions with the results of hydrodynamical simulations, we find that our theory provides a viable mechanism for ring formation if the effective sound speed of the gas is low (⁠cs≲1kms−1⁠), but that nuclear spirals/shocks created by pressure destroy the ring when the sound speed is high (⁠cs≃10kms−1⁠). We conclude that whether this mechanism for ring formation is relevant for real galaxies ultimately depends on the effective equation of state of the interstellar medium (ISM). Promising confirmation comes from simulations in which the ISM is modelled using state-of-the-art cooling functions coupled to live chemical networks, but more tests are needed regarding the role of turbulence driven by stellar feedback. If the mechanism is relevant in real galaxies, it could provide a powerful tool to constrain the gravitational potential, in particular the bar pattern speed.

october 2018: FirstLight – II. Star formation rates of primeval galaxies from z=5-15

Ceverino, Daniel, Klessen, Ralf S., Glover, Simon C. O., MNRAS, 480, 4842-4850 (2018)  [ADS LINK]

Image of FirstLight galaxy (from D. Ceverino)

In the FirstLight project, we have used ˜300 cosmological, zoom-in simulations to determine the star formation histories of distinct first galaxies with stellar masses between M* = 106 and 3 × 10^9 M_{⊙} during cosmic dawn (z = 5-15). The evolution of the star formation rate (SFR) in each galaxy is complex and diverse, characterized by bursts of star formation. Overall, first galaxies spend 70 per cent of their time in star formation bursts. A sample of 1000 of these bursts indicates that the typical burst at z ≃ 6 has a specific SFR (sSFR) maximum of 5-}15 Gyr^{-1} with an effective width of ˜100 Myr, one-tenth of the age of the Universe at that redshift. A quarter of the bursts populate a tail with very high sSFR maxima of 20-}30 Gyr^{-1} and significantly shorter time-scales of ˜40-80 Myr. This diversity of bursts sets the mean and the mass-dependent scatter of the star-forming main sequence. This scatter is driven by a population of low-mass, M_*≤10^8 M_{⊙}, quiescent galaxies. The mean sSFR and the burst maximum at fixed mass increase with redshift, with the later always being a factor of ˜2 higher than the former. This implies sSFR maxima of {˜ } 20-60 Gyr^{-1} at z = 9-10. The SFR histories are publicly available at the FirstLight website.

September 2018: Hubble Tarantula Treasury Project – VI. Identification of pre-main-sequence stars using machine-learning techniques

Ksoll, Victor F., Gouliermis, Dimitrios A., Klessen, Ralf S., Grebel, Eva K., Sabbi, Elena, Anderson, Jay, Lennon, Daniel J., Cignoni, Michele, de Marchi, Guido, Smith, Linda J., Tosi, Monica, van der Marel, Roeland P., MNRAS, 479, 2389-2414 (2018)  [ADS LINK]

Optical CMD of the HTTP data, where each star is colored according to the mean predicted PMS probability (Figure 20 of Ksoll et al. 2018)

The Hubble Tarantula Treasury Project (HTTP) has provided an unprecedented photometric coverage of the entire starburst region of 30 Doradus down to the half Solar mass limit. We use the deep stellar catalogue of HTTP to identify all the pre-main-sequence (PMS) stars of the region, i.e. stars that have not started their lives on the main-sequence yet. The photometric distinction of these stars from the more evolved populations is not a trivial task due to several factors that alter their colour-magnitude diagram positions. The identification of PMS stars requires, thus, sophisticated statistical methods. We employ machine-learning classification techniques on the HTTP survey of more than 800 000 sources to identify the PMS stellar content of the observed field. Our methodology consists of (1) carefully selecting the most probable low-mass PMS stellar population of the star-forming cluster NGC 2070, (2) using this sample to train classification algorithms to build a predictive model for PMS stars, and (3) applying this model in order to identify the most probable PMS content across the entire Tarantula Nebula. We employ decision tree, random forest (RF), and support vector machine (SVM) classifiers to categorize the stars as PMS and non-PMS. The RF and SVM provided the most accurate models, predicting about 20 000 sources with a candidateship probability higher than 50 per cent, and almost 10 000 PMS candidates with a probability higher than 95 per cent. This is the richest and most accurate photometric catalogue of extragalactic PMS candidates across the extent of a whole star-forming complex.

August 2018: On the indeterministic nature of star formation on the cloud scale

Geen, Sam, Watson, Stuart K., Rosdahl, Joakim, Bieri, Rebekka, Klessen, Ralf S., Hennebelle, Patrick, MNRAS, 481, 2548-2569 (2018)  [ADS LINK]

Radius of an H II region(s) in one of the Yule simulations (Figure 5 of Geen et al. 2018)

Molecular clouds are turbulent structures whose star formation efficiency (SFE) is strongly affected by internal stellar feedback processes. In this paper, we determine how sensitive the SFE of molecular clouds is to randomized inputs in the star formation feedback loop, and to what extent relationships between emergent cloud properties and the SFE can be recovered. We introduce the YULE suite of 26 radiative magnetohydrodynamic simulations of a 10 000 solar mass cloud similar to those in the solar neighbourhood. We use the same initial global properties in every simulation but vary the initial mass function sampling and initial cloud velocity structure. The final SFE lies between 6 and 23 per cent when either of these parameters are changed. We use Bayesian mixed-effects models to uncover trends in the SFE. The number of photons emitted early in the cluster’s life and the length of the cloud provide the strongest predictors of the SFE. The H II regions evolve following an analytic model of expansion into a roughly isothermal density field. The more efficient feedback is at evaporating the cloud, the less the star cluster is dispersed. We argue that this is because if the gas is evaporated slowly, the stars are dragged outwards towards surviving gas clumps due to the gravitational attraction between the stars and gas. While star formation and feedback efficiencies are dependent on non-linear processes, statistical models describing cloud-scale processes can be constructed.

July 2018: SPRAI: coupling of radiative feedback and primordial chemistry in moving mesh hydrodynamics

Jaura, O., Glover, S. C. O., Klessen, R. S., Paardekooper, J.-P., MNRAS, 475, 2822-2834 (2018)  [ADS LINK]

Schematic of photon transport in SPRAI (Figure 2 in Jaura et al. 2018)

In this paper, we introduce a new radiative transfer code SPRAI (Simplex Photon Radiation in the Arepo Implementation) based on the SIMPLEX radiation transfer method. This method, originally used only for post-processing, is now directly integrated into the AREPO code and takes advantage of its adaptive unstructured mesh. Radiated photons are transferred from the sources through the series of Voronoi gas cells within a specific solid angle. From the photon attenuation, we derive corresponding photon fluxes and ionization rates and feed them to a primordial chemistry module. This gives us a self-consistent method for studying dynamical and chemical processes caused by ionizing sources in primordial gas. Since the computational cost of the SIMPLEX method does not scale directly with the number of sources, it is convenient for studying systems such as primordial star-forming haloes that may form multiple ionizing sources.

June 2018: A theoretical explanation for the Central Molecular Zone asymmetry

Sormani, Mattia C., Treß, Robin G., Ridley, Matthew, Glover, Simon C. O., Klessen, Ralf S., Binney, James, Magorrian, John, Smith, Rowan, MNRAS, 475, 2383-2402 (2018)   [ADS LINK]

Numerical model of the gas in the inner parts of the Milky Way (Figure 10 of Sormani et al. 2018)
Numerical model of the gas in the inner parts of the Milky Way (Figure 10 of Sormani et al. 2018)

It has been known for more than 30 yr that the distribution of molecular gas in the innermost 300 parsecs of the Milky Way, the Central Molecular Zone, is strongly asymmetric. Indeed, approximately three quarters of molecular emission come from positive longitudes, and only one quarter from negative longitudes. However, despite much theoretical effort, the origin of this asymmetry has remained a mystery. Here, we show that the asymmetry can be neatly explained by unsteady flow of gas in a barred potential. We use high-resolution 3D hydrodynamical simulations coupled to a state-of-the-art chemical network. Despite the initial conditions and the bar potential being point symmetric with respect to the Galactic Centre, asymmetries develop spontaneously due to the combination of a hydrodynamical instability known as the `wiggle instability‘ and the thermal instability. The observed asymmetry must be transient: observations made tens of megayears in the past or in the future would often show an asymmetry in the opposite sense. Fluctuations of amplitude comparable to the observed asymmetry occur for a large fraction of time in our simulations, and suggest that the present is not an exceptional moment in the life of our Galaxy.

May 2018: Spectral shifting strongly constrains molecular cloud disruption by radiation pressure on dust

Reißl, Stefan, Klessen, Ralf S., Mac Low, Mordecai-Mark, Pellegrini, Eric W., A&A, 611, A70, 1-19 (2018)   [ADS LINK]

Gravitational (red) and radiative (blue) forces, and the ratio between the two (purple). Radiation pressure never dominates cloud evolution in Milky Way clouds (Reißl et al. 2018)

Aim. We aim to test the hypothesis that radiation pressure from young star clusters acting on dust is the dominant feedback agent disrupting the largest star-forming molecular clouds and thus regulating the star-formation process.
Methods: We performed multi-frequency, 3D, radiative transfer calculations including both scattering and absorption and re-emission to longer wavelengths for model clouds with masses of 104-107 M, containing embedded clusters with star formation efficiencies of 0.009-91%, and varying maximum grain sizes up to 200 μm. We calculated the ratio between radiative and gravitational forces to determine whether radiation pressure can disrupt clouds.
Results: We find that radiation pressure acting on dust almost never disrupts star-forming clouds. Ultraviolet and optical photons from young stars to which the cloud is optically thick do not scatter much. Instead, they quickly get absorbed and re-emitted by the dust at thermal wavelengths. As the cloud is typically optically thin to far-infrared radiation, it promptly escapes, depositing little momentum in the cloud. The resulting spectrum is more narrowly peaked than the corresponding Planck function, and exhibits an extended tail at longer wavelengths. As the opacity drops significantly across the sub-mm and mm wavelength regime, the resulting radiative force is even smaller than for the corresponding single-temperature blackbody. We find that the force from radiation pressure falls below the strength of gravitational attraction by an order of magnitude or more for either Milky Way or moderate starbust conditions. Only for unrealistically large maximum grain sizes, and star formation efficiencies far exceeding 50% do we find that the strength of radiation pressure can exceed gravity.
Conclusions: We conclude that radiation pressure acting on dust does not disrupt star-forming molecular clouds in any Local Group galaxies. Radiation pressure thus appears unlikely to regulate the star-formation process on either local or global scales.

April 2018: Predicting the locations of possible long-lived low-mass first stars: importance of satellite dwarf galaxies

Magg, Mattis, Hartwig, Tilman, Agarwal, Bhaskar, Frebel, Anna, Glover, Simon C. O., Griffen, Brendan F., Klessen, Ralf S., MNRAS, 473, 5308-5323 (2018)   [ADS LINK]

Simulated Milky Way satellites with the color indicating the expected fraction of Pop III survivors (Figure 7 of Magg et al. 2018)

The search for metal-free stars has so far been unsuccessful, proving that if there are surviving stars from the first generation, they are rare, they have been polluted or we have been looking in the wrong place. To predict the likely location of Population III (Pop III) survivors, we semi-analytically model early star formation in progenitors of Milky Way-like galaxies and their environments. We base our model on merger trees from the high-resolution dark matter only simulation suite Caterpillar. Radiative and chemical feedback are taken into account self-consistently, based on the spatial distribution of the haloes. Our results are consistent with the non-detection of Pop III survivors in the Milky Way today. We find that possible surviving Pop III stars are more common in Milky Way satellites than in the main Galaxy. In particular, low-mass Milky Way satellites contain a much larger fraction of Pop III stars than the Milky Way. Such nearby, low-mass Milky Way satellites are promising targets for future attempts to find Pop III survivors, especially for high-resolution, high signal-to-noise spectroscopic observations. We provide the probabilities of finding a Pop III survivor in the red giant branch phase for all known Milky Way satellites to guide future observations.

March 2018: Shape and spin of minihaloes: from large scales to the centeRs

Druschke, Maik, Schauer, Anna T. P., Glover, Simon C. O., Klessen, Ralf S., MNRAS, 481, 3266-3277 (2018)   [ADS LINK]

Examples of minihalos at redshift 14 (Figure 4 from Druschke et al. 2019)

The spin and shape of galaxies at the present day have been well studied both observationally and theoretically. At high redshifts, however, we have to rely on numerical simulations. In this study, we investigate the shape and spin of minihaloes with masses of M ˜ 105-10^7 M_{⊙} which are of particular interest as they are the sites where the first stars in the Universe form. We analyse a large sample of these minihaloes, selected from a high-resolution cosmological simulation. The first minihaloes form at z ≃ 24 and by the end of the simulation at z ≃ 14 our sample includes ˜9000 minihaloes. We find that the spin parameter of the minihaloes follows a log-normal distribution with minimal dependence on redshift. Most minihaloes are prolate, but those formed at the highest redshifts are more prolate than those formed at lower redshifts. On the scale of the virial radius, there is a good correlation between the shape and spin of the gas and that of the dark matter. However, this correlation breaks down in gas which is cooling and undergoing gravitational collapse. We show, contrary to previous assumptions, that although the direction of the spin of the central dense gas correlates well with that of the halo, the magnitude of the spin of the dense gas is uncorrelated with that of the halo. Therefore, measurements of the spin of minihaloes on large scales tell us little about the angular momentum of the gas responsible for forming the first stars.

February 2018: Forming clusters within clusters: how 30 Doradus recollapsed and gave birth again

Rahner, Daniel, Pellegrini, Eric W., Glover, Simon C. O., Klessen, Ralf S., MNRAS, 473, L11-L15 (2018)   [ADS LINK]

Model of the recollapse of 30 Doradus (Figure 1 of Rahner et al. 2018)

The 30 Doradus nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) contains the massive starburst cluster NGC 2070 with a massive and probably younger stellar sub clump at its centre: R136. It is not clear how such a massive inner cluster could form several million years after the older stars in NGC 2070, given that stellar feedback is usually thought to expel gas and inhibit further star formation. Using the recently developed 1D feedback scheme WARPFIELD to scan a large range of cloud and cluster properties, we show that an age offset of several million years between the stellar populations is in fact to be expected given the interplay between feedback and gravity in a giant molecular cloud with a density ≳500 cm-3 due to re-accretion of gas on to the older stellar population. Neither capture of field stars nor gas retention inside the cluster have to be invoked in order to explain the observed age offset in NGC 2070 as well as the structure of the interstellar medium around it.

January 2018: On the Rotation of Supermassive Stars

Haemmerlé, Lionel, Woods, Tyrone E., Klessen, Ralf S., Heger, Alexander, Whalen, Daniel J., ApJ, 853, L3, 1-5 (2018)   [ADS LINK]

Internal structure of differentially rotating primordial star with accretion rate of 1 Msun/year (from Haemmerlé et al. 2018)

Supermassive stars (SMSs) born from pristine gas in atomically cooled halos are thought to be the progenitors of supermassive black holes at high redshifts. However, the way they accrete their mass is still an unsolved problem. In particular, for accretion to proceed, a large amount of angular momentum has to be extracted from the collapsing gas. Here, we investigate the constraints stellar evolution imposes on this angular momentum problem. We present an evolution model of a supermassive Population III star simultaneously including accretion and rotation. We find that, for SMSs to form by accretion, the accreted angular momentum has to be about 1% of the Keplerian angular momentum. This tight constraint comes from the ΩΓ-limit, at which the combination of radiation pressure and centrifugal force cancels gravity. It implies that SMSs are slow rotators, with a surface velocity less than 10%-20% of their first critical velocity, at which the centrifugal force alone cancels gravity. At such low velocities, the deformation of the star due to rotation is negligible.