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Volume 379, Number 2, November IV 2001
Page(s) 461 - 481
Section Formation, structure and evolution of stars
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20011217

A&A 379, 461-481 (2001)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20011217

Chemical abundance patterns -fingerprints of nucleosynthesis in the first stars

T. Karlsson and B. Gustafsson

Department of Astronomy and Space Physics, Uppsala Astronomical Observatory, Box 515, 751 20, Uppsala, Sweden

(Received 20 June 2001 / Accepted 28 August 2001 )


The interstellar medium of low-metallicity systems undergoing star formation will show chemical abundance inhomogeneities due to supernova events enriching the medium on a local scale. If the star formation time-scale is shorter than the time-scale of mixing of the interstellar matter, the inhomogeneities are reflected in the surface abundances of low-mass stars and thereby detailed information on the nucleosynthesis in the first generations of supernovae is preserved. Characteristic patterns and substructures are therefore expected to be found, apart from the large scatter behaviour, in the distributions of stars when displayed in diagrams relating different element abundance ratios. These patterns emerge from specific variations with progenitor stellar mass of the supernova yields and it is demonstrated that the patterns are insensitive to the initial mass function (IMF) even though the relative density of stars within the patterns may vary. An analytical theory of the formation of patterns is presented and it is shown that from a statistical point of view the abundance ratios can trace the different nucleosynthesis sites even when mixing of the interstellar medium occurs. Using these results, it should be possible to empirically determine supernova yields from the information on relative abundance ratios of a large, homogeneous sample of extremely metal-poor Galactic halo stars.

Key words: stars: population II -- stars: statistics -- supernovae: general -- ISM: clouds -- Galaxy: evolution -- Galaxy: halo

Offprint request: T. Karlsson, Torgny.Karlsson@astro.uu.se

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