Physics and Astronomy Publications
The luminosity of population III star clusters
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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We analyse the time evolution of the luminosity of a cluster of Population III protostars formed in the early Universe. We argue from the Jeans criterion that primordial gas can collapse to form a cluster of first stars that evolve relatively independently of one another (i.e. with negligible gravitational interaction). We model the collapse of individual protostellar clumps using non-axisymmetric numerical hydrodynamics simulations. Each collapse produces a protostar surrounded by a massive disc (i.e. Mdisc/M* ≳ 0.1), whose evolution we follow for a further 30-40 kyr. Gravitational instabilities result in the fragmentation and the formation of gravitationally bound clumps within the disc. The accretion of these fragments by the host protostar produces accretion and luminosity bursts on the order of 106 L⊙. Within the cluster, we show that a simultaneity of such events across several protostellar cluster members can elevate the cluster luminosity to 5-10 times greater than expected, and that the cluster spends ~15 per cent of its star-forming history at these levels. This enhanced luminosity effect is particularly enabled in clusters of modest size with ≃10-20 members. In one such instance, we identify a confluence of burst events that raise the luminosity to nearly 1000 times greater than the cluster mean luminosity, resulting in L > 108 L⊙. This phenomenon arises solely through the gravitational-instability-driven episodic fragmentation and accretion that characterizes this early stage of protostellar evolution.