Journal Article

The signatures of large-scale temperature and intensity fluctuations in the Lyman <i>α</i> forest

Matthew McQuinn, Lars Hernquist, Adam Lidz and Matias Zaldarriaga

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 415, issue 1, pages 977-992
Published in print July 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
The signatures of large-scale temperature and intensity fluctuations in the Lyman α forest

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It appears inevitable that reionization processes would have produced large-scale temperature fluctuations in the intergalactic medium. Using toy temperature models and detailed heating histories from cosmological simulations of He ii reionization, we study the consequences of inhomogeneous heating for the Lyα forest. The impact of temperature fluctuations in physically well-motivated models can be surprisingly subtle. In fact, we show that temperature fluctuations at the level predicted by our reionization simulations do not give rise to detectable signatures in the types of statistics that have been employed previously. However, because of the aliasing of small-scale density power to larger scale modes in the line-of-sight Lyα forest power spectrum, earlier analyses were not sensitive to 3D modes with ≳30 comoving Mpc wavelengths – scales where temperature fluctuations are likely to be relatively largest. The ongoing Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) aims to measure the 3D power spectrum of the Lyα forest, PF, from a large sample of quasars in order to avoid this aliasing. We find that physically motivated temperature models can alter PF at an order unity level at k≲ 0.1 comoving Mpc−1, a magnitude that should be easily detectable with BOSS. Fluctuations in the intensity of the ultraviolet background can also alter PF significantly. These signatures will make it possible for BOSS to study the thermal impact of He ii reionization at 2 < z < 3 and to constrain models for the sources of the ionizing background. Future spectroscopic surveys could extend this measurement to even higher redshifts, potentially detecting the thermal imprint of hydrogen reionization.

Keywords: intergalactic medium; quasars: absorption lines; cosmology: theory; large-scale structure of Universe

Journal Article.  14163 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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