EDP Sciences
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Volume 382, Number 1, January IV 2002
Page(s) 28 - 42
Section Extragalactic astronomy
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20011619

A&A 382, 28-42 (2002)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20011619

On the properties of massive Population III stars and metal-free stellar populations

D. Schaerer

Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, Laboratoire d'Astrophysique, UMR 5572, 14 Av. E. Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France

(Received 2 July 2001 / Accepted 13 November 2001 )

We present realistic models for massive Population III stars and stellar populations based on non-LTE model atmospheres, recent stellar evolution tracks and up-to-date evolutionary synthesis models, with the aim to study their spectral properties, including their dependence on age, star formation history, and IMF. A comparison of plane parallel non-LTE model atmospheres and comoving frame calculations shows that even in the presence of some putative weak mass loss, the ionising spectra of metal-free populations differ little or negligibly from those obtained using plane parallel non-LTE models. As already discussed by Tumlinson & Shull (2000), the main salient property of Pop III stars is their increased ionising flux, especially in the He + continuum ( >54 eV). The main result obtained for individual Pop III stars is the following: due to their redward evolution off the zero age main sequence (ZAMS) the spectral hardness measured by the He $^+\!\!$/H ionising flux is decreased by a factor ~2 when averaged over their lifetime. If such stars would suffer strong mass loss, their spectral appearance could, however, remain similar to that of their ZAMS position. The main results regarding integrated stellar populations are: - for young bursts and the case of a constant SFR, nebular continuous emission - neglected in previous studies - dominates the spectrum redward of Lyman- $\alpha$ if the escape fraction of ionising photons out of the considered region is small or negligible. In consequence predicted emission line equivalent widths are considerably smaller than found in earlier studies, whereas the detection of the continuum is eased. Nebular line and continuous emission strongly affect the broad band photometric properties of Pop III objects; - due to the redward stellar evolution and short lifetimes of the most massive stars, the hardness of the ionising spectrum decreases rapidly, leading to the disappearance of the characteristic He II recombination lines after ~3 Myr in instantaneous bursts; - He II $\lambda$1640, H $\alpha$ (and other) line luminosities usable as indicators of the star formation rate are given for the case of a constant SFR. For obvious reasons such indicators depend strongly on the IMF; - due to an increased photon production and reduced metal yields, the relative efficiency of ionising photon energy to heavy element rest mass production, $\eta$, of metal-poor and metal-free populations is increased by factors of ~4 to 18 with respect to solar metallicity and for "standard" IMFs; - the lowest values of $\eta \sim$ 1.6-2.2% are obtained for IMFs exclusively populated with high mass stars ( $M_{\rm low} \ga 50 \, M_{\odot}$). If correct, the yields dominated by pair creation SNae then predict large overabundances of O/C and Si/C compared to solar abundance ratios. Detailed results are given in tabular form and as fit formulae for easy implementation in other calculations. The predicted spectra will be used to study the detectability of Pop III galaxies and to derive optimal search strategies for such objects.

Key words: cosmology: early Universe -- galaxies: stellar content -- stars: general -- stars: fundamental parameters -- stars: atmospheres

Offprint request: D. Schaerer, schaerer@ast.obs-mip.fr

© ESO 2002