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Scattered Lyman-alpha Radiation Around Sources Before Cosmological Reionization

Abstract

The spectra of the first galaxies and quasars in the Universe should be strongly absorbed shortward of their rest-frame Lyman-alpha wavelength by neutral hydrogen (HI) in the intervening intergalactic medium. However, the Lyman-alpha line photons emitted by these sources are not eliminated but rather scatter until they redshift out of resonance and escape due to the Hubble expansion of the surrounding intergalactic HI. We calculate the resulting brightness distribution and the spectral shape of the diffuse Lyman-alpha line emission around high redshift sources, before the intergalactic medium was reionized. Typically, the Lyman-alpha photons emitted by a source at z=10 scatter over a characteristic angular radius of order 15 arcseconds around the source and compose a line which is broadened and redshifted by about a thousand km/s relative to the source. The scattered photons are highly polarized. Detection of the diffuse Lyman-alpha halos around high redshift sources would provide a unique tool for probing the neutral intergalactic medium before the epoch of reionization. On sufficiently large scales where the Hubble flow is smooth and the gas is neutral, the Lyman-alpha brightness distribution can be used to determine the cosmological mass densities of baryons and matter.Comment: 21 pages, 5 Postscript figures, accepted by ApJ; figures 1--3 corrected; new section added on the detectability of Lyman alpha halos; conclusions update

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    Last time updated on 04/12/2019