skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on December 1, 2022

Title: Chasing the Tail of Cosmic Reionization with Dark Gap Statistics in the Lyα Forest over 5 < z < 6
Abstract We present a new investigation of the intergalactic medium (IGM) near the end of reionization using “dark gaps” in the Ly α forest. Using spectra of 55 QSOs at z em > 5.5, including new data from the XQR-30 VLT Large Programme, we identify gaps in the Ly α forest where the transmission averaged over 1 comoving h −1 Mpc bins falls below 5%. Nine ultralong ( L > 80 h −1 Mpc) dark gaps are identified at z < 6. In addition, we quantify the fraction of QSO spectra exhibiting gaps longer than 30 h −1 Mpc, F 30 , as a function of redshift. We measure F 30 ≃ 0.9, 0.6, and 0.15 at z = 6.0, 5.8, and 5.6, respectively, with the last of these long dark gaps persisting down to z ≃5.3. Comparing our results with predictions from hydrodynamical simulations, we find that the data are consistent with models wherein reionization extends significantly below redshift six. Models wherein the IGM is essentially fully reionized that retain large-scale fluctuations in the ionizing UV background at z ≲6 are also potentially consistent with the data. Overall, our results suggest that signatures of reionization in the form of more » islands of neutral hydrogen and/or large-scale fluctuations in the ionizing background remain present in the IGM until at least z ≃ 5.3. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1751404
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10342942
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Volume:
923
Issue:
2
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
223
ISSN:
0004-637X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract We present a new investigation of the intergalactic medium near reionization using dark gaps in the Ly β forest. With its lower optical depth, Ly β offers a potentially more sensitive probe to any remaining neutral gas compared to the commonly used Ly α line. We identify dark gaps in the Ly β forest using spectra of 42 QSOs at z em > 5.5, including new data from the XQR-30 VLT Large Programme. Approximately 40% of these QSO spectra exhibit dark gaps longer than 10 h −1 Mpc at z ≃ 5.8. By comparing the results to predictions frommore »simulations, we find that the data are broadly consistent both with models where fluctuations in the Ly α forest are caused solely by ionizing ultraviolet background fluctuations and with models that include large neutral hydrogen patches at z < 6 due to a late end to reionization. Of particular interest is a very long ( L = 28 h −1 Mpc) and dark ( τ eff ≳ 6) gap persisting down to z ≃ 5.5 in the Ly β forest of the z = 5.85 QSO PSO J025−11. This gap may support late reionization models with a volume-weighted average neutral hydrogen fraction of 〈 x H I 〉 ≳ 5% by z = 5.6. Finally, we infer constraints on 〈 x H I 〉 over 5.5 ≲ z ≲ 6.0 based on the observed Ly β dark gap length distribution and a conservative relationship between gap length and neutral fraction derived from simulations. We find 〈 x H I 〉 ≤ 0.05, 0.17, and 0.29 at z ≃ 5.55, 5.75, and 5.95, respectively. These constraints are consistent with models where reionization ends significantly later than z = 6.« less
  2. ABSTRACT Reionization-era galaxies tend to exhibit weak Ly α emission, likely reflecting attenuation from an increasingly neutral IGM. Recent observations have begun to reveal exceptions to this picture, with strong Ly α emission now known in four of the most massive z = 7–9 galaxies in the CANDELS fields, all of which also exhibit intense [O iii]+H β emission (EW > 800 Å). To better understand why Ly α is anomalously strong in a subset of massive z ≃ 7–9 galaxies, we have initiated an MMT/Binospec survey targeting a larger sample (N = 22) of similarly luminous (≃1–6 L$^{\ast }_{\mathrm{UV}}$) z ≃ 7 galaxies selected over verymore »wide-area fields (∼3 deg2). We confidently (>7σ) detect Ly α in 78 per cent (7/9) of galaxies with strong [O iii]+H β emission (EW > 800 Å) as opposed to only 8 per cent (1/12) of galaxies with more moderate (EW = 200–800 Å) [O iii]+H β. We argue that the higher Ly α EWs of the strong [O iii]+H β population likely reflect enhanced ionizing photon production efficiency owing to their large sSFRs (≳30 Gyr−1). We also find evidence that Ly α transmission from massive galaxies declines less rapidly over 6 < z < 7 than in low-mass lensed systems. In particular, our data suggest no strong evolution in Ly α transmission, consistent with a picture wherein massive z ≃ 7 galaxies often reside in large ionized regions. We detect three closely separated (R = 1.7 physical Mpc) z ≃ 7 Ly α emitters in our sample, conceivably tracing a large ionized structure that is consistent with this picture. We detect tentative evidence for an overdensity in this region, implying a large ionizing photon budget in the surrounding volume.« less
  3. ABSTRACT We compare a sample of five high-resolution, high S/N  Ly α forest spectra of bright 6 < z < ∼6.5 QSOs aimed at spectrally resolving the last remaining transmission spikes at z > 5 with those obtained from mock absorption spectra from the Sherwoodand Sherwood–Relics simulation suites of hydrodynamical simulations of the intergalactic medium (IGM). We use a profile-fitting procedure for the inverted transmitted flux, 1 − F, similar to the widely used Voigt profile fitting of the transmitted flux F at lower redshifts, to characterize the transmission spikes that probe predominately underdense regions of the IGM. We are ablemore »to reproduce the width and height distributions of the transmission spikes, both with optically thin simulations of the post-reionization Universe using a homogeneous UV background and full radiative transfer simulations of a late reionization model. We find that the width of the fitted components of the simulated transmission spikes is very sensitive to the instantaneous temperature of the reionized IGM. The internal structures of the spikes are more prominent in low temperature models of the IGM. The width distribution of the observed transmission spikes, which require high spectral resolution (≤ 8  km s−1) to be resolved, is reproduced for optically thin simulations with a temperature at mean density of T0 = (11 000 ± 1600, 10 500 ± 2100, 12 000 ± 2200) K at z = (5.4, 5.6, 5.8). This is weakly dependent on the slope of the temperature-density relation, which is favoured to be moderately steeper than isothermal. In the inhomogeneous, late reionization, full radiative transfer simulations where islands of neutral hydrogen persist to z ∼ 5.3, the width distribution of the observed transmission spikes is consistent with the range of T0 caused by spatial fluctuations in the temperature–density relation.« less
  4. Abstract The density and temperature properties of the intergalactic medium (IGM) reflect the heating and ionization history during cosmological structure formation, and are primarily probed by the Ly α forest of neutral hydrogen absorption features in the observed spectra of background sources. We present the methodology and initial results from the Cholla IGM Photoheating Simulation (CHIPS) suite performed with the graphics process unit–accelerated Cholla code to study the IGM at high, uniform spatial resolution maintained over large volumes. In this first paper, we examine the IGM structure in CHIPS cosmological simulations that include IGM uniform photoheating and photoionization models wheremore »hydrogen reionization is completed early or by redshift z ∼ 6. Comparing with observations of the large- and small-scale Ly α transmitted flux power spectra P ( k ) at redshifts 2 ≲ z ≲ 5.5, the relative agreement of the models depends on scale, with the self-consistent Puchwein et al. IGM photoheating and photoionization model in good agreement with the flux P ( k ) at k ≳ 0.01 s km −1 at redshifts 2 ≲ z ≲ 3.5. On larger scales, the P ( k ) measurements increase in amplitude from z ∼ 4.6 to z ∼ 2.2, faster than the models, and lie in between the model predictions at 2.2 ≲ z ≲ 4.6 for k ≈ 0.002–0.01 s km −1 . We argue that the models could improve by changing the He ii photoheating rate associated with active galactic nuclei to reduce the IGM temperature at z ∼ 3. At higher redshifts, z ≳ 4.5, the observed flux P ( k ) amplitude increases at a rate intermediate between the models, and we argue that for models where hydrogen reionization is completed late ( z ∼ 5.5–6), resolving this disagreement will require inhomogeneous or “patchy” reionization. We then use an additional set of simulations to demonstrate that our results have numerically converged and are not strongly affected by varying cosmological parameters.« less
  5. ABSTRACT We present an updated model of the cosmic ionizing background from the UV to the X-rays. Relative to our previous model, the new model provides a better match to a large number of up-to-date empirical constraints, including: (1) new galaxy and AGN luminosity functions; (2) stellar spectra including binary stars; (3) obscured and unobscured AGN; (4) a measurement of the non-ionizing UV background; (5) measurements of the intergalactic H i and He ii photoionization rates at z ∼ 0−6; (6) the local X-ray background; and (7) improved measurements of the intergalactic opacity. In this model, AGN dominate the H i ionizing backgroundmore »at z ≲ 3 and star-forming galaxies dominate it at higher redshifts. Combined with the steeply declining AGN luminosity function beyond z ∼ 2, the slow evolution of the H i ionization rate inferred from the high-redshift H i Ly α forest requires an escape fraction from star-forming galaxies that increases with redshift (a population-averaged escape fraction of $\approx 1{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ suffices to ionize the intergalactic medium at z = 3 when including the contribution from AGN). We provide effective photoionization and photoheating rates calibrated to match the Planck 2018 reionization optical depth and recent constraints from the He ii Ly α forest in hydrodynamic simulations.« less