Abstract

Abstract The most massive Galactic globular cluster ω Cen appears to have two, or perhaps more, distinct main sequences. Its bluest main sequence is at the centre of debate because it has been suggested to have an extremely high helium abundance of Y ∼ 0.4. The same helium abundance is claimed to explain the presence of extreme horizontal branch stars of ω Cen as well. This demands a relative helium-to-metal enrichment of ΔY/ΔZ ∼ 70; that is, more than one order of magnitude larger than the generally accepted value. Candidate solutions, namely asymptotic giant branch stars, massive stars and supernovae, have been suggested; but in this study, we show that none of them is a viable channel, in terms of reproducing the high value of ΔY/ΔZ for the constrained age difference between the red and blue populations. Essentially no populations with an ordinary initial mass function, including those candidates, can produce such a high ΔY/ΔZbecause they all produce metals as well as helium. As an alternative, we investigate the possibility of the stochastic ‘first star’ contamination to the gas from which the younger generation of ω Cen formed. This requires the assumption that the Population III star formation episode overlaps with that of Population II. While the required condition appears extreme, very massive objects in the first star generation provide a solution that is at least as plausible as any other suggestions made before.

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