On the Observability of Individual Population III Stars and Their Stellar-mass Black Hole Accretion Disks through Cluster Caustic Transits
We summarize panchromatic Extragalactic Background Light data to place upper limits on the integrated near-infrared surface brightness (SB) that may come from Population III stars and possible accretion disks around their stellar-mass black holes (BHs) in the epoch of First Light, broadly taken from z ≃ 7–17. Theoretical predictions and recent near-infrared power spectra provide tighter constraints on their sky signal. We outline the physical properties of zero-metallicity Population III stars from MESA stellar evolution models through helium depletion and of BH accretion disks at . We assume that second-generation non-zero-metallicity stars can form at higher multiplicity, so that BH accretion disks may be fed by Roche-lobe overflow from lower-mass companions. We use these near-infrared SB constraints to calculate the number of caustic transits behind lensing clusters that the James Webb Space Telescope and the next-generation ground-based telescopes may observe for both Population III stars and their BH accretion disks. Typical caustic magnifications can be , with rise times of hours and decline times of year for cluster transverse velocities of km s−1. Microlensing by intracluster-medium objects can modify transit magnifications but lengthen visibility times. Depending on BH masses, accretion-disk radii, and feeding efficiencies, stellar-mass BH accretion-disk caustic transits could outnumber those from Population III stars. To observe Population III caustic transits directly may require monitoring 3–30 lensing clusters to mag over a decade.