The Formation and Fragmentation of Disks Around Primordial Protostars

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Science  03 Feb 2011:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1198027


The very first stars to form in the universe heralded an end to the cosmic dark ages and introduced new physical processes that shaped early cosmic evolution. Until now, it was thought that these stars lived short, solitary lives, with only one extremely massive star, or possibly a very wide binary system, forming in each dark matter minihalo. Here, we describe numerical simulations that show that these stars were, to the contrary, often members of tight multiple systems. Our results show that the disks that formed around the first young stars were unstable to gravitational fragmentation, possibly producing small binary and higher-order systems that had separations as small as the distance between the Earth and the Sun.