ON THE DETECTION OF SPECTRAL RIPPLES FROM THE RECOMBINATION EPOCH

Mayuri Sathyanarayana Rao, Ravi Subrahmanyan, N. Udaya Shankar, Jens Chluba

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    24 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Photons emitted during cosmological hydrogen (500 ≲ z ≲ 1600) and helium recombination (1600 ≲ z ≲ 3500 for He II→He I, 5000 ≲ z ≲ 8000 for He III→ He II) are predicted to appear as broad, weak spectral distortions of the cosmic microwave background. We present a feasibility study for a ground-based detection of these recombination lines, which would uniquely probe astrophysical cosmology beyond the last scattering surface and provide observational constraints on the thermal history of the universe. We find that including sufficient signal spectral structure and maximizing signal-to-noise ratio, an octave band in the 2-6 GHz window is optimal; in this band the predicted signal appears as an additive quasi-sinusoidal component with amplitude about 8 nK embedded in a sky spectrum some nine orders of magnitude brighter. We discuss algorithms to detect these tiny spectral fluctuations in the sky spectrum by foreground modeling and introduce a maximally smooth function capable of describing the foreground spectrum and distinguishing the signal of interest. We conclude that detection is in principle feasible in realistic observing times provided that radio frequency interference and instrument bandpass calibration are controlled in this band at the required level; using Bayesian tests and mock data, we show that 90% confidence detection is possible with an array of 128 radiometers observing for 255 days of effective integration time. We propose APSERa - Array of Precision Spectrometers for the Epoch of Recombination - a dedicated radio telescope to detect these recombination lines.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number3
    JournalAstrophysical Journal
    Volume810
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2015

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