Monday, November 26, 2007

Reionization Review

The Frontier of Reionization: Theory and Forthcoming Observations
The cosmic microwave background provides an image of the Universe 0.4 million years after the big bang, when atomic hydrogen formed out of free electrons and protons. One of the primary goals of observational cosmology is to obtain follow-up images of the Universe during the epoch of reionization, hundreds of millions of years later, when cosmic hydrogen was ionized once again by the UV photons emitted from the first galaxies

Under the assumption that general relativity describes the evolution of the Universe, the measured CMB anisotropies indicate conclusively that most of the matter in the Universe must be very weakly coupled to electromagnetism and hence cannot be the matter that we are made of (baryons). This follows from the fact that prior to hydrogen recombination, the cosmic plasma was coupled to the radiation through Thomson scattering. Small-scale fluctuations were then damped in the radiation-baryon fluid by photon diffusion. The damping is apparent in the observed suppression of the CMB anisotropies on angular scales well below a degree on the sky, corresponding to spatial scales much smaller than 200 comoving Mpc. To put this scale in context, the matter that makes up galaxies was assembled from scales of < 2Mpc. In order to preserve the primordial inhomogeneities that seeded the formation of galaxies, it is necessary to have a dominant matter component that does not couple to the radiation fluid

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