Probing reionization and early cosmic enrichment with the Mg II forest
AffiliationSteward Observatory, University of Arizona
Dark ages, reionization, first stars
Quasars: absorption lines
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherOxford University Press
CitationHennawi, J. F., Davies, F. B., Wang, F., & Oñorbe, J. (2021). Probing reionization and early cosmic enrichment with the Mg II forest. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 506(2), 2963–2984.
RightsCopyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Astronomical Society.
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AbstractBecause the same massive stars that reionized the intergalactic medium (IGM) inevitably exploded as supernovae that polluted the Universe with metals, the history of cosmic reionization and enrichment is intimately intertwined. While the overly sensitive Ly a transition completely saturates in a neutral IGM, strong low-ionization metal lines like the MgII λ2796, λ2804 doublet will give rise to a detectable 'metal-line forest' if the metals produced during reionization (Z ~ 10-3 Z⊙) permeate the neutral IGM. We simulate theMg II forest for the first time by combining a large hydrodynamical simulation with a seminumerical reionization topology, assuming a simple enrichment model where the IGM is uniformly suffused with metals. In contrast to the traditional approach of identifying discrete absorbers, we treat the absorption as a continuous random field and measure its two-point correlation function, leveraging techniques from precision cosmology. We show that a realistic mock data set of 10 James Webb Space Telescope spectra can simultaneously determine theMg abundance, [Mg/H], with a 1σ precision of 0.02 dex and measure the global neutral fraction (xHI) to 5 per cent for a Universe with (xHI) = 0.74 and [Mg/H] = -3.7. Alternatively, if the IGM is pristine, a null detection of the MgII forest would set a stringent upper limit on the IGM metallicity of [Mg/H] < -4.4 at 95 per cent credibility, assuming (xHI) > 0.5 from another probe. Concentrations of metals in the circumgalactic environs of galaxies can significantly contaminate the IGM signal, but we demonstrate how these discrete absorbers can be easily identified and masked such that their impact on the correlation function is negligible. The MgII forest thus has tremendous potential to precisely constrain the reionization and enrichment history of the Universe. © 2021 The Author(s) .
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