New insights into primordial star formation



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The formation of the first stars, also known as Population III (Pop III), marked a pivotal point in the universe's evolution from relative smoothness and homogeneity to its current highly structured state. In this dissertation we study key aspects of Pop III star formation. We utilize three-dimensional cosmological simulations to follow the evolution of gas and DM from z ~100 until the first minihalo forms. Once the gas infalls toward the center of the minihalo and condenses, we implement the 'sink particle' method to represent regions that will form a star, and we follow the evolution of the metal-free, star-forming gas for many free-fall times. A disk forms around the initial Pop III star and fragments to form secondary stars with a range of masses (1 - 50 [solar mass]). This is markedly different from the previous paradigm of one single, massive star forming per minihalo. Using a ray-tracing technique, we also examine the effect of radiative feedback on protostellar growth and disk fragmentation. This feedback will not prevent the formation of secondary stars within the disk, but will reduce the final mass reached by the largest Pop III star. Measuring the angular momentum of the gas that falls onto the sink regions, we also find that the more massive Pop III stars accrete sufficient angular momentum to rotate at nearly break-up speeds, and can potentially end their lives as collapsar gamma-ray bursts or hypernovae. We furthermore numerically examine the recently discovered relative streaming motions between dark matter and baryons, originating from the era of recombination. Relative streaming will slightly delay the redshift at which Pop III stars first form, but will otherwise have little impact on Pop III star formation and the history of reionization. We finally evaluate the possible effect of a cosmic ray (CR) background generated by the supernova deaths of massive Pop III stars. A sufficiently large CR background could indirectly enhance the H₂ cooling within the affected minihalos. The resulting lower temperatures would lead to a reduced characteristic stellar mass (~ 10 [solar mass]), providing another possible pathway to form low-mass Pop III stars.