Journal Article

Recombinations to the Rydberg states of hydrogen and their effect during the cosmological recombination epoch

J. Chluba, G. M. Vasil and L. J. Dursi

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 407, issue 1, pages 599-612
Published in print September 2010 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online August 2010 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Recombinations to the Rydberg states of hydrogen and their effect during the cosmological recombination epoch

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In this paper we discuss the effect of recombinations to highly excited states (n > 100) in hydrogen during the cosmological recombination epoch. For this purpose, we developed a new ordinary differential equation solver for the recombination problem, based on an implicit Gear's method. This solver allows us to include up to 350 l-resolved shells or ∼61 000 separate levels in the hydrogen model and to solve the recombination problem for one cosmology in ∼27 h. This is a huge improvement in performance over our previous recombination code, for which a 100-shell computation (5050 separate states) already required ∼150 h on a single processor. We show that for 350 shells down to redshift z∼ 200, the results for the free electron fraction have practically converged. The final modification in the free electron fraction at z∼ 200 decreases from about ΔNe/Ne∼ 2.8 per cent for 100 shells to ΔNe/Ne∼ 1.6 per cent for 350 shells. However, the associated changes in the cosmic microwave background power spectra at large multipoles l are rather small, so that for accurate computations in connection with the analysis of Planck data already ∼100 shells are expected to be sufficient. Nevertheless, the total value of τ could still be affected at a significant level. We also briefly investigate the effect of collisions on the recombination dynamics. With our current estimates for the collisional rates we find a correction of ΔNe/Ne∼−8.8 × 10−4 at z∼ 700, which is mainly caused by l-changing collisions with protons. Furthermore, we present results on the cosmological recombination spectrum, showing that at low frequencies collisional processes are important. However, the current accuracy of collisional rates is insufficient for precise computations of templates for the recombination spectrum at ν≲ 1 GHz, and also the effect of collisions on the recombination dynamics suffers from the uncertainty in these rates. Improvements in collisional rates will therefore become necessary in order to obtain a final answer regarding their effects during recombination.

Keywords: atomic processes; radiative transfer; cosmic background radiation; cosmological parameters; cosmology: observations; cosmology: theory

Journal Article.  10820 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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