Rapid Chemical Enrichment by Intermittent Star Formation in GN-z11

Chiaki Kobayashi, Andrea Ferrara

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We interpret the peculiar supersolar nitrogen abundance recently reported by the James Webb Space Telescope observations for GN-z11 (z = 10.6) using our state-of-the-art chemical evolution models. The observed CNO ratios can be successfully reproduced—independently of the adopted initial mass function, nucleosynthesis yields, and presence of supermassive (>1000M ) stars—if the galaxy has undergone an intermittent star formation history with a quiescent phase lasting ∼100 Myr, separating two strong starbursts. Immediately after the second burst, Wolf-Rayet stars (up to 120M ) become the dominant enrichment source, also temporarily (<1 Myr) enhancing particular elements (N, F, Na, and Al) and isotopes ( 13C and 18O). Alternative explanations involving (i) single burst models, also including very massive stars and/or pair-instability supernovae, or (ii) pre-enrichment scenarios fail to match the data. Feedback-regulated, intermittent star formation might be common in early systems. Elemental abundances can be used to test this hypothesis and to get new insights on nuclear and stellar astrophysics.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL6
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
Early online date6 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2024


  • astro-ph.GA
  • astro-ph.HE
  • astro-ph.SR


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