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Research

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Publication details for Dr Ryan Cooke

Cooke, Ryan J., Pettini, Max & Steidel, Charles C. (2017). Discovery of the most metal-poor damped Lyman-α system. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 467(1): 802-811.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

We report the discovery and analysis of the most metal-poor damped Lyman α (DLA) system currently known, based on observations made with the Keck HIRES spectrograph. The metal paucity of this system has only permitted the determination of three element abundances: [C/H] = −3.43 ± 0.06, [O/H] = −3.05 ± 0.05 and [Si/H] = −3.21 ± 0.05, as well as an upper limit on the abundance of iron: [Fe/H] ≤ −2.81. This DLA is among the most carbon-poor environment currently known with detectable metals. By comparing the abundance pattern of this DLA to detailed models of metal-free nucleosynthesis, we find that the chemistry of the gas is consistent with the yields of a 20.5 M⊙ metal-free star that ended its life as a core-collapse supernova; the abundances we measure are inconsistent with the yields of pair-instability supernovae. Such a tight constraint on the mass of the progenitor Population III star is afforded by the well-determined C/O ratio, which we show depends almost monotonically on the progenitor mass when the kinetic energy of the supernova explosion is Eexp ≳ 1.5 × 1051 erg. We find that the DLA presented here has just crossed the critical ‘transition discriminant’ threshold, rendering the DLA gas now suitable for low mass star formation. We also discuss the chemistry of this system in the context of recent models that suggest some of the most metal-poor DLAs are the precursors of the ‘first galaxies’, and are the antecedents of the ultrafaint dwarf galaxies.