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    The attenuation of Lyα photons by neutral hydrogen in the intergalactic medium (IGM) at z ≳ 5 continues to be a powerful probe for studying the epoch of reionization. Given a framework to estimate the intrinsic (true) Lyα emission of high-z sources, one can infer the ionization state of the IGM during reionization. In this work, we use the enlarged XQR-30 sample of 42 high-resolution and high signal-to-noise quasar spectra between $5.8\lesssim \, z\lesssim \, 6.6$ obtained with VLT/X-shooter to place constraints on the IGM neutral fraction. This is achieved using our existing Bayesian QSO reconstruction framework which accounts for uncertainties such as the: (i) posterior distribution of predicted intrinsic Lyα emission profiles (obtained via covariance matrix reconstruction of the Lyα and N v emission lines from unattenuated high-ionization emission line profiles; C iv, Si iv  + O iv], and C iii]) and (ii) distribution of ionized regions within the IGM using synthetic damping wing profiles drawn from a 1.63 Gpc3 reionization simulation. Following careful quality control, we used 23 of the 42 available QSOs to obtain constraints/limits on the IGM neutral fraction during the tail-end of reionization. Our median and 68th percentile constraints on the IGM neutral fraction are: $0.20\substack{+0.14 -0.12}$ and $0.29\substack{+0.14 -0.13}$ at z = 6.15 and 6.35. Further, we also report 68th percentile upper limits of $\bar{x}_{\mathrm{H\, {\small I}}{}} \lt 0.21$, 0.20, 0.21, and 0.18 at z = 5.8, 5.95, 6.05, and 6.55. These results imply reionization is still ongoing at $5.8\lesssim \, z\lesssim \, 6.55$, consistent with previous results from XQR-30 (dark fraction and Lyα forest) along with other observational probes considered in the literature.

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  2. 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. 
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    Intervening metal absorption lines in the spectra of z ≳ 6 quasars are fundamental probes of the ionization state and chemical composition of circumgalactic and intergalactic gas near the end of the reionization epoch. Large absorber samples are required to robustly measure typical absorber properties and to refine models of the synthesis, transport, and ionization of metals in the early Universe. The Ultimate XSHOOTER legacy survey of quasars at z ∼ 5.8–6.6 (XQR-30) has obtained high signal-to-noise spectra of 30 luminous quasars, nearly quadrupling the existing sample of 12 high quality z ∼ 6 quasar spectra. We use this unprecedented sample to construct a catalogue of 778 systems showing absorption in one or more of Mg ii (360 systems), Fe ii (184), C ii (46), C iv (479), Si iv (127), and N v (13) which span 2 ≲ z ≲ 6.5. This catalogue significantly expands on existing samples of z ≳ 5 absorbers, especially for C iv and Si iv which are important probes of the ionizing photon background at high redshift. The sample is 50 per cent (90 per cent) complete for rest-frame equivalent widths W ≳ 0.03 Å (0.09 Å). We publicly release the absorber catalogue along with completeness statistics and a python script to compute the absorption search path for different ions and redshift ranges. This data set is a key legacy resource for studies of enriched gas from the era of galaxy assembly to cosmic noon, and paves the way for even higher redshift studies with JWST and 30 m-class telescopes.

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    The final phase of the reionization process can be probed by rest-frame UV absorption spectra of quasars at z ≳ 6, shedding light on the properties of the diffuse intergalactic medium within the first Gyr of the Universe. The ESO Large Programme ‘XQR-30: the ultimate XSHOOTER legacy survey of quasars at z ≃ 5.8–6.6’ dedicated ∼250 h of observations at the VLT to create a homogeneous and high-quality sample of spectra of 30 luminous quasars at z ∼ 6, covering the rest wavelength range from the Lyman limit to beyond the Mg ii emission. Twelve quasar spectra of similar quality from the XSHOOTER archive were added to form the enlarged XQR-30 sample, corresponding to a total of ∼350 h of on-source exposure time. The median effective resolving power of the 42 spectra is R ≃ 11 400 and 9800 in the VIS and NIR arm, respectively. The signal-to-noise ratio per 10 km s−1 pixel ranges from ∼11 to 114 at λ ≃ 1285 Å rest frame, with a median value of ∼29. We describe the observations, data reduction, and analysis of the spectra, together with some first results based on the E-XQR-30 sample. New photometry in the H and K bands are provided for the XQR-30 quasars, together with composite spectra whose characteristics reflect the large absolute magnitudes of the sample. The composite and the reduced spectra are released to the community through a public repository, and will enable a range of studies addressing outstanding questions regarding the first Gyr of the Universe.

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