On the Maximum Mass of Accreting Primordial Supermassive Stars

Research paper by T. E. Woods, Alexander Heger, Daniel J. Whalen, Lionel Haemmerle, Ralf S. Klessen

Indexed on: 21 Mar '17Published on: 21 Mar '17Published in: arXiv - Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics


Supermassive primordial stars are now suspected to be the progenitors of the most massive quasars at z~6. Previous studies of such stars were either unable to resolve hydrodynamical timescales or considered stars in isolation, not in the extreme accretion flows in which they actually form. Therefore, they could not self-consistently predict their final masses at collapse, or those of the resulting supermassive black hole seeds, but rather invoked comparison to simple polytropic models. Here, we systematically examine the birth, evolution and collapse of accreting supermassive stars under accretion rates of 0.01-10 solar masses per year using the stellar evolution code KEPLER. KEPLER includes post-Newtonian corrections to the stellar structure and an adaptive nuclear network, and is capable of transitioning to following the hydrodynamic evolution of supermassive stars after they encounter the general relativistic instability. We find that this instability triggers the collapse of the star at 150,000-330,000 solar masses for accretion rates of 0.1-10 solar masses per year, and that the final mass of the star scales roughly logarithmically with the rate. Collapse is sensitive to the mass of the convective core during accretion, so any departures from the treatment of convection, the heat content of the outer accreted envelope, or the boundary conditions in our study may lead to deviations in the final mass of the star that worsen with accretion rate. Since these stars collapse directly to black holes, our models place an upper limit of ~300,000 solar masses on the masses of the first quasars at birth.