skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on June 7, 2023

Title: Hydrogen reionization ends by z = 5.3: Lyman-α optical depth measured by the XQR-30 sample
ABSTRACT The presence of excess scatter in the Ly-α forest at z ∼ 5.5, together with the existence of sporadic extended opaque Gunn-Peterson troughs, has started to provide robust evidence for a late end of hydrogen reionization. However, low data quality and systematic uncertainties complicate the use of Ly-α transmission as a precision probe of reionization’s end stages. In this paper, we assemble a sample of 67 quasar sightlines at z > 5.5 with high signal-to-noise ratios of >10 per ≤15 km s−1 spectral pixel, relying largely on the new XQR-30 quasar sample. XQR-30 is a large program on VLT/X-Shooter which obtained deep (SNR > 20 per pixel) spectra of 30 quasars at z > 5.7. We carefully account for systematics in continuum reconstruction, instrumentation, and contamination by damped Ly-α systems. We present improved measurements of the mean Ly-α transmission over 4.9 < z < 6.1. Using all known systematics in a forward modelling analysis, we find excellent agreement between the observed Ly-α transmission distributions and the homogeneous-UVB simulations Sherwood and Nyx up to z ≤ 5.2 (<1σ), and mild tension (∼2.5σ) at z = 5.3. Homogeneous UVB models are ruled out by excess Ly-α transmission scatter at z ≥ 5.4 with high confidence more » (>3.5σ). Our results indicate that reionization-related fluctuations, whether in the UVB, residual neutral hydrogen fraction, and/or IGM temperature, persist in the intergalactic medium until at least z = 5.3 (t = 1.1 Gyr after the big bang). This is further evidence for a late end to reionization. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; more » ; ; ; ; ; ; « less
Award ID(s):
1751404
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10342948
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume:
514
Issue:
1
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
55 to 76
ISSN:
0035-8711
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. 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
  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 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, Fmore »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 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
  4. 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
  5. Abstract The observed large-scale scatter in Ly α opacity of the intergalactic medium at z < 6 implies large fluctuations in the neutral hydrogen fraction that are unexpected long after reionization has ended. A number of models have emerged to explain these fluctuations that make testable predictions for the relationship between Ly α opacity and density. We present selections of z = 5.7 Ly α -emitting galaxies (LAEs) in the fields surrounding two highly opaque quasar sightlines with long Ly α troughs. The fields lie toward the z = 6.0 quasar ULAS J0148+0600, for which we reanalyze previously published resultsmore »using improved photometric selection, and toward the z = 6.15 quasar SDSS J1250+3130, for which results are presented here for the first time. In both fields, we report a deficit of LAEs within 20 h −1 Mpc of the quasar. The association of highly opaque sightlines with galaxy underdensities in these two fields is consistent with models in which the scatter in Ly α opacity is driven by large-scale fluctuations in the ionizing UV background or by an ultra-late reionization that has not yet concluded at z = 5.7.« less