686 research outputs found

    The Effect of Fluctuations on the Helium-Ionizing Background

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    Interpretation of He II Ly{\alpha} absorption spectra after the epoch of He II reionization requires knowledge of the He II ionizing background. While past work has modelled the evolution of the average background, the standard cosmological radiative transfer technique assumes a uniform radiation field despite the discrete nature of the (rare) bright quasars that dominate the background. We implement a cosmological radiative transfer model that includes the most recent constraints on the ionizing spectra and luminosity function of quasars and the distribution of IGM absorbers. We also estimate, for the first time, the effects of fluctuations on the evolving continuum opacity in two ways: by incorporating the complete distribution of ionizing background amplitudes into the standard approach, and by explicitly treating the quasars as discrete -- but isolated -- sources. Our model results in a He II ionization rate that evolves steeply with redshift, increasing by a factor ~2 from z=3.0 to z=2.5. This causes rapid evolution in the mean He II Ly{\alpha} optical depth -- as recently observed -- without appealing to the reionization of He II. The observed behaviour could instead result from rapid evolution in the mean free path of ionizing photons as the helium in higher H I column density absorbers becomes fully ionized.Comment: 14 pages, 9 figures. Accepted by MNRAS; significantly modified from previous versio

    Determining the Nature of Late Gunn-Peterson Troughs with Galaxy Surveys

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    Recent observations have discovered long (up to ~110 Mpc/h), opaque Gunn-Peterson troughs in the z ~ 5.5 Lyman-alpha forest, which are challenging to explain with conventional models of the post-reionization intergalactic medium. Here we demonstrate that observations of the galaxy populations in the vicinity of the deepest troughs can distinguish two competing models for these features: deep voids where the ionizing background is weak due to fluctuations in the mean free path of ionizing photons would show a deficit of galaxies, while residual temperature variations from extended, inhomogeneous reionization would show an overdensity of galaxies. We use large (~550 Mpc/h) semi-numerical simulations of these competing explanations to predict the galaxy populations in the largest of the known troughs at z ~ 5.7. We quantify the strong correlation of Lyman-alpha effective optical depth and galaxy surface density in both models and estimate the degree to which realistic surveys can measure such a correlation. While a spectroscopic galaxy survey is ideal, we also show that a relatively inexpensive narrowband survey of Lyman-alpha-emitting galaxies is ~90% likely to distinguish between the competing models.Comment: 12 pages, 16 figures. Submitted to Ap

    The Opacity of the Intergalactic Medium Measured Along Quasar Sightlines at z6z\sim 6

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    We publicly release a new sample of 3434 medium resolution quasar spectra at 5.77zem6.545.77\leq z_{\rm em}\leq6.54 observed with the Echellette Spectrograph and Imager (ESI) on the Keck telescope. This quasar sample represents an ideal laboratory to study the intergalactic medium (IGM) during the end stages of the epoch of reionization, and constrain the timing and morphology of the phase transition. For a subset of 2323 of our highest signal-to-noise ratio spectra (S/N>7>7, per 10kms110\,{\rm km\,s^{-1}} pixel), we present a new measurement of the Lyman-α\alpha (Lyα\alpha) forest opacity spanning the redshift range 4.8z6.34.8\lesssim z\lesssim6.3. We carefully eliminate spectral regions that could be causing biases in our measurements due to additional transmitted flux in the proximity zone of the quasars, or extra absorption caused by strong intervening absorption systems along the line of sight. We compare the observed evolution of the IGM opacity with redshift to predictions from a hydrodynamical simulation with uniform ultraviolet background (UVB) radiation, as well as two semi-numerical patchy reionization models, one with a fluctuating UVB and another with a fluctuating temperature field. Our measurements show a steep rise in opacity at z5.0z\gtrsim5.0 and an increased scatter and thus support the picture of a spatially inhomogeneous reionization process, consistent with previous work. However, we measure significantly higher optical depths at 5.3z5.75.3\lesssim z\lesssim5.7 than previous studies, which reduces the contrast between the highest opacity Gunn-Peterson troughs and the average opacity trend of the IGM, which may relieve some of the previously noted tension between these measurements and reionization models.Comment: accepted for publication at Ap

    Large Fluctuations in the High-Redshift Metagalactic Ionizing Background

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    Recent observations have shown that the scatter in opacities among coeval segments of the Lyman-alpha forest increases rapidly at z > 5. In this paper, we assess whether the large scatter can be explained by fluctuations in the ionizing background in the post-reionization intergalactic medium. We find that matching the observed scatter at z ~ 5.5 requires a short spatially averaged mean free path of 3 shorter than direct measurements at z ~ 5.2. We argue that such rapid evolution in the mean free path is difficult to reconcile with our measurements of the global H I photoionization rate, which stay approximately constant over the interval z ~ 4.8 - 5.5. However, we also show that measurements of the mean free path at z > 5 are likely biased towards higher values by the quasar proximity effect. This bias can reconcile the short values of the mean free path that are required to explain the large scatter in opacities. We discuss the implications of this scenario for cosmological reionization. Finally, we investigate whether other statistics applied to the z > 5 Lyman-alpha forest can shed light on the origin of the scatter. Compared to a model with a uniform ionizing background, models that successfully account for the scatter lead to enhanced power in the line-of-sight flux power spectrum on scales k < 0.1 h/Mpc. We find tentative evidence for this enhancement in observations of the high-redshift Lyman-alpha forest.Comment: Matches version published by MNRAS with clarifications and expanded discussio

    Modeling the HeII Transverse Proximity Effect: Constraints on Quasar Lifetime and Obscuration

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    The HeII transverse proximity effect - enhanced HeII Ly{\alpha} transmission in a background sightline caused by the ionizing radiation of a foreground quasar - offers a unique opportunity to probe the emission properties of quasars, in particular the emission geometry (obscuration, beaming) and the quasar lifetime. Building on the foreground quasar survey published in Schmidt+2017, we present a detailed model of the HeII transverse proximity effect, specifically designed to include light travel time effects, finite quasar ages, and quasar obscuration. We post-process outputs from a cosmological hydrodynamical simulation with a fluctuating HeII UV background model, plus the added effect of the radiation from a single bright foreground quasar. We vary the age taget_\mathrm{age} and obscured sky fractions Ωobsc\Omega_\mathrm{obsc} of the foreground quasar, and explore the resulting effect on the HeII transverse proximity effect signal. Fluctuations in IGM density and the UV background, as well as the unknown orientation of the foreground quasar, result in a large variance of the HeII Ly{\alpha} transmission along the background sightline. We develop a fully Bayesian statistical formalism to compare far UV HeII Ly{\alpha} transmission spectra of the background quasars to our models, and extract joint constraints on taget_\mathrm{age} and Ωobsc\Omega_\mathrm{obsc} for the six Schmidt+2017 foreground quasars with the highest implied HeII photoionization rates. Our analysis suggests a bimodal distribution of quasar emission properties, whereby one foreground quasar, associated with a strong HeII transmission spike, is relatively old (22Myr)(22\,\mathrm{Myr}) and unobscured Ωobsc<35%\Omega_\mathrm{obsc}<35\%, whereas three others are either younger than (10Myr)(10\,\mathrm{Myr}) or highly obscured (Ωobsc>70%)(\Omega_\mathrm{obsc}>70\%).Comment: 19 pages, 6 figures, submitted to Ap