At redshifts z>~2, most of the baryons reside in the smooth intergalactic medium which is responsible for the low column density Lyα forest. This photoheated gas follows a tight temperature-density relation which introduces a cut-off in the distribution of widths of the Lyα absorption lines (b-parameters) as a function of column density. We have measured this cut-off in a sample of nine high-resolution, high signal-to-noise ratio quasar spectra and determined the thermal evolution of the intergalactic medium in the redshift range 2.0-4.5. At a redshift z~3, the temperature at the mean density shows a peak and the gas becomes nearly isothermal. We interpret this as evidence for the reionization of Heii.
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
- Pub Date:
- November 2000
- INTERGALACTIC MEDIUM;
- QUASARS: ABSORPTION LINES;
- COSMOLOGY: MISCELLANEOUS;
- Accepted for publication in MNRAS, 11 pages, 7 figures. Revised version shortened, discussion clarified, conclusions unchanged