Witnessing the birth of a supermassive protostar

M. A. Latif, D. R.G. Schleicher, T. Hartwig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


The detection of z > 6 quasars reveals the existence of supermassive black holes of a few 109M. One of the potential pathways to explain their formation in the infant universe is the so-called direct collapse model which provides massive seeds of 105-106M. An isothermal direct collapse mandates that haloes should be of a primordial composition and the formation of molecular hydrogen remains suppressed in the presence of a strong Lyman Werner flux. In this study, we perform high resolution cosmological simulations for two massive primordial haloes employing a detailed chemical model which includes H- cooling as well as realistic opacities for both the bound-free H- emission and the Rayleigh scattering of hydrogen atoms. We are able to resolve the collapse up to unprecedentedly high densities of ~10-3 g cm-3 and to scales of about 10-4 au. Our results show that the gas cools down to ~5000 K in the presence of H- cooling, and induces fragmentation at scales of about 8000 au in one of the two simulated haloes, which may lead to the formation of a binary. In addition, fragmentation also occurs on the au scale in one of the haloes but the clumps are expected to merge on short time-scales. Our results confirm that H- cooling does not prevent the formation of a supermassive star and the trapping of cooling radiation stabilizes the collapse on small scales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-241
Number of pages9
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 22 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Black hole physics
  • Cosmology: theory
  • Early universe
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Methods: numerical
  • Quasars: supermassive black holes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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