If a significant fraction of metals is in dust, star-forming cores with metallicity higher than a critical value ∼10-6 to 10-5 Z⊙ are able to fragment by dust cooling, thereby producing low-mass cores. Despite being above the critical metallicity, a metallicity range is found to exist around 10-5 to 10-4 Z ⊙ where low-mass fragmentation is prohibited. In this range, three-body H2 formation starts at low (∼100 K) temperature, and thus the resulting heating causes a dramatic temperature jump, which makes the central part of the star-forming core transiently hydrostatic and thus highly spherical. With little elongation, the core does not experience fragmentation in the subsequent dust-cooling phase. The minimum fragmentation mass is set by the Jeans mass just before the H2 formation heating, and its value can be as high as ∼10 M⊙. For metallicity higher than ∼10-4 Z⊙, H2 formation is almost completed by the dust-surface reaction before the onset of the three-body reaction, and low-mass star formation becomes possible. This mechanism might explain the higher characteristic mass of metal-poor stars than in the solar neighborhood presumed from the statistics of carbon-enhanced stars.
- Stars: Population II
- Stars: formation