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D. Q. Lamb (University of Chicago), Z. Haiman (Princeton University)
GRBs are expected to occur at redshifts far higher than the highest quasar redshifts so far detected. And unlike quasars, GRB afterglows may provide ``clean'' probes of the epoch of reionization because no complications (such as the presence of a strong Ly\alpha emission line) or ``proximity effects'' (such as the Strömgren sphere produced by ionizing photons from the quasar) are expected. Thus NIR and optical observations of GRB afterglows may provide unique information about the epoch of reionization. In particular, the flux at wavelengths shortward of Ly\alpha provides a direct measure of the density fluctuations of the IGM at the GRB redshift, while the flux at wavelengths longward of Ly\alpha provides an integrated measure of the number of ionizing photons produced by stars in the host galaxy of the GRB up until the burst occurs. A comparison of the sizes of the Strömgren spheres produced by stars in the host galaxies of GRBs and by quasars then provides an estimate of the relative contributions of star formation and quasars to reionization. We use detailed calculations of the expected shape of the GRB afterglow spectrum in the vicinity of Ly\alpha for GRBs at a variety of redshifts to illustrate these points.
Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society,
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.