645 research outputs found

    Extragalactic Background Light: new constraints from the study of the photon-photon absorption on blazar spectra

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    The study of the Extragalactic Background Light (EBL) is crucial to understand many astrophysical problems (as the formation of first stars, the evolution of galaxies and the role of dust emission). At present, one of the most powerful ways to put constraints on EBL is represented by the study of the photon-photon absorption on gamma-ray spectra of TeV blazars. Adopting this method, we found that, if the only contribution to the optical and Near Infrared (NIR) background is given by galaxies, the spectrum of the blazar H1426+428 cannot be fitted. To reproduce the observational data of H1426+428 a Near Infrared excess with respect to galaxy counts is required, with amplitude consistent with both the Matsumoto et al. (2000) data with Kelsall's model of zodiacal light (ZL) subtraction and the DIRBE data with Wright's model of ZL subtraction. The derived constraints on the optical EBL are weaker, because the experimental errors on blazar data are still bigger than the differences among various optical EBL models. In the mid-infrared the SPITZER measurement at 24 micron provides the best fit of the blazar spectrum.Comment: 8 pages, 5 figures, to appear in Proceedings of "Baryons in Dark Matter Halos", 5-9 October 2004, Novigrad, Croati

    Unresolved X-ray background: clues on galactic nuclear activity at z>6

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    We study, by means of dedicated simulations of massive black hole build-up, the possibility to constraint the existence and nature of the AGN population at z>6 with available and planned X-ray and near infrared space telescopes. We find that X-ray deep-field observations can set important constraints to the faint-end of the AGN luminosity function at very high redshift. Planned X-ray telescopes should be able to detect AGN hosting black holes with masses down to >10^5 Msun (i.e., X-ray luminosities in excess of 10^42 erg s^-1), and can constrain the evolution of the population of massive black hole at early times (6<z<10). We find that this population of AGN should contribute substantially (~25%) to the unresolved fraction of the cosmic X-ray background in the 0.5-10 keV range, and that a significant fraction (~3-4%) of the total background intensity would remain unaccounted even after future X-ray observations. As byproduct, we compute the expected UV background from AGN at z>6 and we discuss the possible role of AGN in the reionization of the Universe at these early epochs, showing that AGN alone can provide enough ionizing photons only in the (improbable) case of an almost completely homogeneous inter-galactic medium. Finally, we show that super-Eddington accretion, suggested by the observed QSOs at z>6, must be a very rare event, confined to black holes living in the highest density peaks.Comment: 9 pages, 7 figures, MNRAS in pres

    First Stars Contribution to the Near Infrared Background Fluctuations

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    We show that the emission from the first, metal-free stars inside Population III objects (PopIIIs) are needed to explain the level of fluctuations in the Near Infrared Background (NIRB) recently discovered by Kashlinsky et al. (2002), at least at the shortest wavelengths. Clustering of (unresolved) Pop IIIs can in fact account for the entire signal at almost all the ~1-30 arcsec scales probed by observations in the J band. Their contribution fades away at shorter frequencies and becomes negligible in the K band. ``Normal'', highly clustered, ~3 galaxies undergoing intense star-formation such as those found in the Hubble Deep Fields can 'fill in' this gap and provide for the missing signal. It is in fact found that their contribution to the intensity fluctuations is the dominant one at lambda=2.17 mum, while it gradually looses importance in the H and J bands. The joint contribution from these two populations of cosmic objects is able, within the errors, to reproduce the observed power spectrum in the whole Near Infrared range on small angular scales (theta < 200" for Pop III protogalaxies). Signals on larger scales detected by other experiments instead require the presence of more local sources.Comment: 6 pages, 4 figures, submitted to MNRA

    The Gamma Ray Burst Luminosity Function in the Light of the Swift 2-year Data

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    We compute the luminosity function (LF) and the formation rate of long gamma ray bursts (GRBs) by fitting the observed differential peak flux distribution obtained by the BATSE satellite in three different scenarios: i) GRBs follow the cosmic star formation and their LF is constant in time; ii) GRBs follow the cosmic star formation but the LF varies with redshift; iii) GRBs form preferentially in low-metallicity environments. We find that the differential peak flux number counts obtained by BATSE and by Swift can be reproduced using the same LF and GRB formation rate, indicating that the two satellites are observing the same GRB population. We then check the resulting redshift distributions in the light of Swift 2-year data, focusing in particular on the relatively large sample of GRBs detected at z>2.5. We show that models in which GRBs trace the cosmic star formation and are described by a constant LF are ruled out by the number of high-z Swift detections. This conclusion does not depend on the redshift distribution of bursts that lack of optical identification, nor on the existence of a decline in star formation rate at z>2, nor on the adopted faint-end of the GRB LF. Swift observations can be explained by assuming that the LF varies with redshift and/or that GRB formation is limited to low-metallicity environments.Comment: 7 pages, 3 figures, ApJ Letter in pres

    X-ray absorption towards high-redshift sources: probing the intergalactic medium with blazars

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    The role played by the intergalactic medium (IGM) in the X-ray absorption towards high-redshift sources has recently drawn more attention in spectral analysis studies. Here, we study the X-ray absorption towards 15 flat-spectrum radio quasars at z>2z>2, relying on high counting statistic (10000\gtrsim10\,000 photons) provided by XMM-Newton, with additional NuSTAR (and simultaneous Swift-XRT) observations when available. Blazars can be confidently considered to have negligible X-ray absorption along the line of sight within the host galaxy, likely swept by the kpc-scale relativistic jet. This makes our sources ideal for testing the absorption component along the IGM. Our new approach is to revisit the origin of the soft X-ray spectral hardening observed in high-z blazars in terms of X-ray absorption occurring along the IGM, with the help of a low-z sample used as comparison. We verify that the presence of absorption in excess of the Galactic value is the preferred explanation to explain the observed hardening, while intrinsic energy breaks, predicted by blazars' emission models, can easily occur out of the observing energy band in most sources. First, we perform an indirect analysis comparing the inferred amount of absorption in excess of the Galactic value with a simulated IGM absorption contribution, that increases with redshift and includes both a minimum component from diffuse IGM metals, and the additional contribution of discrete denser intervening regions. Then, we directly investigate the warm-hot IGM with a spectral model on the best candidates of our sample, obtaining an average IGM density of n0=1.010.72+0.53×107n_0=1.01^{+0.53}_{-0.72}\times10^{-7} cm3^{-3} and temperature of log(T/K)=6.452.12+0.51\log(T/\text{K})=6.45^{+0.51}_{-2.12}. A more dedicated study is currently beyond reach, but our results can be used as a stepping stone for future more accurate analysis, involving Athena.Comment: 32 pages, 7 figures. Accepted, to be published in A&

    PopIII signatures in the spectra of PopII/I GRBs

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    We investigate signatures of population III (PopIII) stars in the metal-enriched environment of GRBs originating from population II-I (PopII/I) stars by using abundance ratios derived from numerical simulations that follow stellar evolution and chemical enrichment. We find that at z>10z>10 more than 1010% of PopII/I GRBs explode in a medium previously enriched by PopIII stars (we refer to them as GRBII\rightarrowIII). Although the formation of GRBII\rightarrowIII is more frequent than that of pristine PopIII GRBs (GRBIIIs), we find that the expected GRBII\rightarrowIII observed rate is comparable to that of GRBIIIs, due to the usually larger luminosities of these latter. GRBII\rightarrowIII events take place preferentially in small proto-galaxies with stellar masses M104.5107M\rm M_\star \sim 10^{4.5} - 10^7\,\rm M_\odot, star formation rates SFR103101M/yr\rm SFR \sim 10^{-3}-10^{-1}\,\rm M_\odot/yr and metallicities Z104102ZZ \sim 10^{-4}-10^{-2}\,\rm Z_\odot. On the other hand, galaxies with Z<102.8ZZ < 10^{-2.8}\,\rm Z_\odot are dominated by metal enrichment from PopIII stars and should preferentially host GRBII\rightarrowIII. Hence, measured GRB metal content below this limit could represent a strong evidence of enrichment by pristine stellar populations. We discuss how to discriminate PopIII metal enrichment on the basis of various abundance ratios observable in the spectra of GRBs' afterglows. By employing such analysis, we conclude that the currently known candidates at redshift z6z\simeq 6 -- i.e. GRB 050904 \cite[][]{2006Natur.440..184K} and GRB 130606A \cite[][]{2013arXiv1312.5631C} -- are likely not originated in environments pre-enriched by PopIII stars.Comment: 9 pages, 7 figures; MNRAS accepte

    Missing cosmic metals revealed by X-ray absorption towards distant sources

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    The census of heavy elements (metals) produced by all stars through cosmic times up to present-day is limited to ~50%; of these only half are still found within their parent galaxy. The majority of metals is expelled from galaxies into the circumgalactic (or even more distant, intergalactic) space by powerful galactic winds, leaving unpleasant uncertainty on the amount, thermal properties and distribution of these key chemical species. These dispersed metals unavoidably absorb soft X-ray photons from distant sources. We show that their integrated contribution can be detected in the form of increasing X-ray absorption with distance, for all kinds of high-energy cosmic sources. Based on extensive cosmological simulations, we assess that \sim 10\% of all cosmic metals reside in the intergalactic medium. Most of the X-ray absorption arises instead from a few discrete structures along the line of sight. These extended structures, possibly pin-pointing galaxy groups, contain million degree, metal-enriched gas, 100-1,000 times denser than the cosmic mean. An additional ~10% of cosmic metals could reside in this phase.Comment: Accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics. 9 pages, 4 figures, 1 tabl

    Constraining the PopIII IMF with high-z GRBs

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    We study the possibility to detect and distinguish signatures of enrichment from PopIII stars in observations of PopII GRBs (GRBIIs) at high redshift by using numerical N-body/hydrodynamical simulations including atomic and molecular cooling, star formation and metal spreading from stellar populations with different initial mass functions (IMFs), yields and lifetimes. PopIII and PopII star formation regimes are followed simultaneously and both a top-heavy and a Salpeter-like IMF for pristine PopIII star formation are adopted. We find that the fraction of GRBIIs hosted in a medium previously enriched by PopIII stars (PopIII-dominated) is model independent. Typical abundance ratios, such as [Si/O] vs [C/O] and [Fe/C] vs [Si/C], can help to disentangle enrichment from massive and intermediate PopIII stars, while low-mass first stars are degenerate with regular PopII generations. The properties of galaxies hosting PopIII-dominated GRBIIs are not very sensitive to the particular assumption on the mass of the first stars.Comment: 9 pages, 4 figure

    Testing Reionization with Gamma Ray Burst Absorption Spectra

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    We propose to study cosmic reionization using absorption line spectra of high-redshift Gamma Ray Burst (GRB) afterglows. We show that the statistics of the dark portions (gaps) in GRB absorption spectra represent exquisite tools to discriminate among different reionization models. We then compute the probability to find the largest gap in a given width range [Wmax, Wmax + dW] at a flux threshold Fth for burst afterglows at redshifts 6.3 < z < 6.7. We show that different reionization scenarios populate the (Wmax, Fth) plane in a very different way, allowing to distinguish among different reionization histories. We provide here useful plots that allow a very simple and direct comparison between observations and model results. Finally, we apply our methods to GRB 050904 detected at z = 6.29. We show that the observation of this burst strongly favors reionization models which predict a highly ionized intergalactic medium at z~6, with an estimated mean neutral hydrogen fraction xHI = 6.4 \pm 0.3 \times 10^-5 along the line of sight towards GRB 050904.Comment: 5 pages, 3 figures, revised to match the accepted version; major change: gap statistics is now studied in terms of the flux threshold Fth, instead of the observed J-band flux FJ; MNRAS in pres

    XMM-Newton Slew Survey observations of the gravitational wave event GW150914

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    The detection of the first gravitational wave (GW) transient GW150914 prompted an extensive campaign of follow-up observations at all wavelengths. Although no dedicated XMM-Newton observations have been performed, the satellite passed through the GW150914 error box during normal operations. Here we report the analysis of the data taken during these satellite slews performed two hours and two weeks after the GW event. Our data cover 1.1 square degrees and 4.8 square degrees of the final GW localization region. No credible X-ray counterpart to GW150914 is found down to a sensitivity of 6E-13 erg/cm2/s in the 0.2-2 keV band. Nevertheless, these observations show the great potential of XMM-Newton slew observations for the search of the electromagnetic counterparts of GW events. A series of adjacent slews performed in response to a GW trigger would take <1.5 days to cover most of the typical GW credible region. We discuss this scenario and its prospects for detecting the X-ray counterpart of future GW detections.Comment: 6 pages, 3 figures, 2 tables. Accepted for publication in ApJ Letter
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