Journal Article

Photoheating and the fate of hard photons during the reionization of He <span class="smallCaps">ii</span> by quasars

James S. Bolton, S. Peng Oh and Steven R. Furlanetto

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 395, issue 2, pages 736-752
Published in print May 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online April 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Photoheating and the fate of hard photons during the reionization of He ii by quasars

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We use a combination of analytic and numerical arguments to consider the impact of quasar photoheating during He ii reionization on the thermal evolution of the intergalactic medium (IGM). We demonstrate that rapid (Δz < 0.1–0.2), strong (ΔT > 104 K) photoheating is difficult to achieve across the entire IGM unless quasar spectra are significantly harder than implied by current observational constraints. Although filtering of intrinsic quasar radiation through dense regions in the IGM does increase the mean excess energy per He ii photoionization, it also weakens the radiation intensity and lowers the photoionization rate, preventing rapid heating over time intervals shorter than the local photoionization time-scale. Moreover, the hard photons responsible for the strongest heating are more likely to deposit their energy inside dense clumps, which cool rapidly and are furthermore invisible to most observational probes of the IGM temperature. The abundance of such clumps is, however, uncertain and model dependent, leading to a fairly large uncertainty in the photoheating rates. Nevertheless, although some of the IGM may be exposed to a hardened and weakened ionizing background for long periods, most of the IGM must instead be reionized by the more abundant, softer photons and with accordingly modest heating rates (ΔT≲ 104 K), although localized patches of much higher temperature are still possible. The repeated ionization of fossil quasar He iii regions does not increase the net heating because the recombination times in these regions typically exceed the IGM cooling times and the average time lag between successive rounds of quasar activity. Detailed line-of-sight radiative transfer simulations confirm these expectations and predict a rich thermal structure in the IGM during He ii reionization. The resulting complex relationship between temperature and density may help resolve discrepancies between optically thin simulations of the Lyα forest and recent observations.

Keywords: radiative transfer; methods: numerical; intergalactic medium; quasars: absorption lines; cosmology: theory

Journal Article.  15905 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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