Vol 12, No 8 (2012) / Fan

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Observations of the first light and the epoch of reionization

Xiao-Hui Fan


Studying the first generation of stars, galaxies and supermassive black holes as well as the epoch of reionization is one of the fundamental questions of modern astrophysics. The last few years have witnessed the first confirmation of the discoveries of galaxies, quasars and Gamma-Ray Bursts at z > 7, with possible detections at z ~ 10. There is also mounting evidence that cosmic reionization is a prolonged process that peaks around z ~ 10 and ends at z ~ 6 − 7. Observations of the highest redshift intergalactic medium and the most metal-poor stars in the Galaxy begin to constrain the earliest chemical enrichment processes in the Universe. These observations provide a glimpse of cosmic history over the first billion years after the Big Bang. In this review, we will present recent results on the observations of the high-redshift Universe over the past decade, highlight key challenges and uncertainties in these observations, and preview what is possible with the next generation facilities in studying the first light and mapping the history of reionization.


galaxies: evolution — galaxies: formation — galaxies: high-redshift — intergalactic medium — quasars: general — cosmology: large-scale structure of universe

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