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Title: Examining the decline in the C  iv content of the Universe over 4.3 ≲  z   ≲ 6.3 using the E-XQR-30 sample
ABSTRACT Intervening C iv absorbers are key tracers of metal-enriched gas in galaxy haloes over cosmic time. Previous studies suggest that the C iv cosmic mass density ($\Omega _{\rm C \, \small {IV}}$) decreases slowly over 1.5 $\lesssim \, z\lesssim$ 5 before declining rapidly at z ≳ 5, but the cause of this downturn is poorly understood. We characterize the $\Omega _{\rm C \, \small {IV}}$ evolution over 4.3 ≲ z ≲ 6.3 using 260 absorbers found in 42 XSHOOTER spectra of z ∼ 6 quasars, of which 30 come from the ESO Large Program XQR-30. The large sample enables us to robustly constrain the rate and timing of the downturn. We find that $\Omega _{\rm C \, \small {IV}}$ decreases by a factor of 4.8 ± 2.0 over the ∼300 Myr interval between z ∼ 4.7 and ∼5.8. The slope of the column density (log N) distribution function does not change, suggesting that C iv absorption is suppressed approximately uniformly across 13.2 ≤ log N/cm−2 < 15.0. Assuming that the carbon content of galaxy haloes evolves as the integral of the cosmic star formation rate density (with some delay due to stellar lifetimes and outflow travel times), we show that chemical evolution alone could plausibly explain the fast decline in $\Omega _{\rm C \, \small {IV}}$ over 4.3 ≲ z ≲ 6.3. However, the C iv/C ii ratio decreases at the highest redshifts, so the accelerated decline in $\Omega _{\rm C \, \small {IV}}$ at z ≳ 5 may be more naturally explained by rapid changes in the gas ionization state driven by evolution of the UV background towards the end of hydrogen reionization.  more » « less
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Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Page Range / eLocation ID:
314 to 331
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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