Journal Article

On the detectability of the hydrogen 3-cm fine-structure line from the epoch of reionization

M. Dijkstra, A. Lidz, J. R. Pritchard, L. J. Greenhill, D. A. Mitchell, S. M. Ord and R. B. Wayth

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 390, issue 4, pages 1430-1436
Published in print November 2008 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online October 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
On the detectability of the hydrogen 3-cm fine-structure line from the epoch of reionization

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A soft ultraviolet radiation field, 10.2 < hν < 13.6 eV, that permeates neutral intergalactic gas during the epoch of reionization (EoR) excites the 2p (directly) and 2s (indirectly) states of atomic hydrogen. Because the 2s state is metastable, the lifetime of atoms in this level is relatively long, which may cause the 2s state to be overpopulated relative to the 2p state. It has recently been proposed that for this reason, neutral intergalactic atomic hydrogen gas may be detected in absorption in its 3-cm fine-structure line (2s1/2→ 2p3/2) against the cosmic microwave background out to very high redshifts. In particular, the optical depth in the fine-structure line through neutral intergalactic gas surrounding bright quasars during the EoR may reach τFS∼ 10−5. The resulting surface brightness temperature of tens of μK (in absorption) may be detectable with existing radio telescopes. Motivated by this exciting proposal, we perform a detailed analysis of the transfer of Lyβ, γ, δ, … radiation, and reanalyse the detectability of the fine-structure line in neutral intergalactic gas surrounding high-redshift quasars. We find that proper radiative transfer modelling causes the fine-structure absorption signature to be reduced tremendously to τFS≲ 10−10. We therefore conclude that neutral intergalactic gas during the EoR cannot reveal its presence in the 3-cm fine-structure line to existing radio telescopes.

Keywords: line: profiles; radiative transfer; cosmology: theory; diffuse radiation; radio lines: general

Journal Article.  5809 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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