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A new candidate for probing Population III nucleosynthesis with carbon-enhanced damped Lyα systems


  • Based on observations collected at the W. M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation.



We report the identification of a very metal poor damped Lyα system (DLA) at zabs = 3.067 295 that is modestly carbon enhanced, with an iron abundance of ∼1/700 solar ([Fe/H] =−2.84) and [C,O/Fe] ≃ +0.6. Such an abundance pattern is likely to be the result of nucleosynthesis by massive stars. On the basis of 17 metal absorption lines, we derive a 2σ upper limit on the DLA's kinetic temperature of TDLA ≤ 4700 K, which is broadly consistent with the range of spin temperature estimates for DLAs at this redshift and metallicity. While the best-fitting abundance pattern shows the expected hallmarks of Population III nucleosynthesis, models of high-mass Population II stars can match the abundance pattern almost as well. We discuss current limitations in distinguishing between these two scenarios and the marked improvement in identifying the remnants of Population III stars expected from the forthcoming generation of 30-m class telescopes.