Vol 14, No 4

The reionization of He II and the temperature evolution of the intergalactic medium

Yun-Chuan Yu, Chang-Shuo Yan, You-Jun Lu


Abstract A number of observations suggest that He II in the intergalactic medium (IGM) was fully ionized at z ~ 3, probably by quasi-stellar objects (QSOs). Here we construct a simple model of a QSO to study the reionization of He II and the corresponding thermal evolution of the IGM. We assume that QSOs are triggered by major mergers of dark matter halos, and the luminosity evolution of individual QSOs is described by an initial accretion stage with a constant Eddington ratio and then a powerlaw decay driven by long term disk evolution or fueling. Once a QSO is triggered, it immediately ionizes its surrounding area as an ionized bubble. The resulting changes in size and volume of the bubble are determined by the luminosity evolution of the central QSO. With the emergence of more and more bubbles, they eventually overlap each other and finally permeate the whole universe. During the He II reionization, the IGM temperature increases due to the photoheating by the ionization processes. Applying the bubble model and considering various heating and cooling mechanisms, we trace the thermal evolution of the IGM and obtain the average IGM temperature as a function of redshift, which is very consistent with observations. The increase in IGM temperature due to the reionization of He II may be determined more accurately in the future, which may put robust constraints on the QSO model and the physics of He II reionization.


Keywords cosmology: theory — intergalactic medium: QSO

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