AAS 200th meeting, Albuquerque, NM, June 2002
Session 86. Cosmology and IGM
Oral, Thursday, June 6, 2002, 2:00-3:30pm, Ballroom B

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[86.07] The Epoch of Helium Reionization

A. Sokasian, L. E. Hernquist (Harvard University), T. Abel (Penn State University)

We study the reionization of Helium II by quasars using a numerical approach that combines 3D radiative transfer calculations with cosmological hydrodynamical simulations. Sources producing the ionizing radiation are selected according to an empirical quasar luminosity function and are assigned luminosities according to their intrinsic masses. The free parameters associated with this procedure are: (1) a universal source lifetime, (2) a minimum mass cutoff, (3) a minimum luminosity cutoff, (4) a solid angle specifying the extent to which radiation is beamed, and (5) a tail-end spectral index for the radiative energy distribution of the sources. We present models in which these parameters are varied and examine characteristics of the resultant reionization process that distinguish the various cases. In addition, we extract artificial spectra from the simulations and quantify statistical properties of the spectral features in each model.

We find that the most important factor affecting the evolution of He II reionization is the cumulative number of ionizing photons that are produced by the sources. Comparisons between He II opacities measured observationally and those obtained by our analysis reveal that the available ranges in plausible values for the parameters provide enough leeway to provide a satisfactory match. However, one property common to all our calculations is that the epoch of Helium II reionization must have occurred at a redshift between 3 and 4. If so, future observational programs will be able to directly trace the details of the ionization history of helium and probe the low density phase of the intergalactic medium during this phase of the evolution of the Universe.

This work was supported in part by NSF grants ACI96-19019, AST-9803137, and PHY 9507695.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 34
© 2002. The American Astronomical Soceity.