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Title: Hydrodynamic Response of the Intergalactic Medium to Reionization. II. Physical Characteristics and Dynamics of Ionizing Photon Sinks
Abstract Becker et al. measured the mean free path of Lyman-limit photons in the intergalactic medium (IGM) at z = 6. The short value suggests that absorptions may have played a prominent role in reionization. Here we study physical properties of ionizing photon sinks in the wake of ionization fronts (I-fronts) using radiative hydrodynamic simulations. We quantify the contributions of gaseous structures to the Lyman-limit opacity by tracking the column-density distributions in our simulations. Within Δ t = 10 Myr of I-front passage, we find that self-shielding systems ( N H I > 10 17.2 cm −2 ) are comprised of two distinct populations: (1) overdensity Δ ∼ 50 structures in photoionization equilibrium with the ionizing background, and (2) Δ ≳ 100 density peaks with fully neutral cores. The self-shielding systems contribute more than half of the opacity at these times, but the IGM evolves considerably in Δ t ∼ 100 Myr as structures are flattened by pressure smoothing and photoevaporation. By Δ t = 300 Myr, they contribute ≲10% to the opacity in an average 1 Mpc 3 patch of the universe. The percentage can be a factor of a few larger in overdense patches, where more self-shielding systems more » survive. We quantify the characteristic masses and sizes of self-shielding structures. Shortly after I-front passage, we find M = 10 4 –10 8 M ⊙ and effective diameters d eff = 1–20 ckpc h −1 . These scales increase as the gas relaxes. The picture herein presented may be different in dark matter models with suppressed small-scale power. « less
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The Astrophysical Journal
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National Science Foundation
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