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A bound on the 12C/13C ratio in near-pristine gas with ESPRESSO.★

Pettini, Max and Fumagalli, Michele and Cooke, Ryan and Welsh, Louise (2020) 'A bound on the 12C/13C ratio in near-pristine gas with ESPRESSO.★.', Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society., 494 (1). pp. 1411-1423.


Using science verification observations obtained with ESPRESSO at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in 4UT mode, we report the first bound on the carbon isotope ratio 12C/13C of a quiescent, near-pristine damped Lyα (DLA) system at z = 2.34. We infer a limit log1012C/13C>+0.37(2σ)⁠. We use the abundance pattern of this DLA, combined with a stochastic chemical enrichment model, to infer the properties of the enriching stars, finding the total gas mass of this system to be log10(Mgas/M⊙)=6.3+1.4−0.9 and the total stellar mass to be log10(M⋆/M⊙) = 4.8 ± 1.3. The current observations disfavour enrichment by metal-poor Asymptotic Giant Branch (AGB) stars with masses <2.4M⊙⁠, limiting the epoch at which this DLA formed most of its enriching stars. Our modelling suggests that this DLA formed very few stars until ≳ 1 Gyr after the cosmic reionization of hydrogen and, despite its very low metallicity (∼1/1000 of solar), this DLA appears to have formed most of its stars in the past few hundred Myr. Combining the inferred star formation history with evidence that some of the most metal-poor DLAs display an elevated [C/O] ratio at redshift z ≲ 3, we suggest that very metal-poor DLAs may have been affected by reionization quenching. Finally, given the simplicity and quiescence of the absorption features associated with the DLA studied here, we use these ESPRESSO data to place a bound on the possible variability of the fine-structure constant, Δα/α = ( − 1.2 ± 1.1) × 10−5.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society ©: 2020 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
Date accepted:19 March 2020
Date deposited:24 March 2020
Date of first online publication:24 March 2020
Date first made open access:24 March 2020

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