Motivated by recent evidence that the epoch of reionization of hydrogen may have ended at a redshift as low as z~6, we consider the detectability of the sources responsible for this reionization. The main idea is that reionization places limits on the mean surface brightness of the population of reionization sources. Reducing the number of model-dependent assumptions to a minimum, we discuss the observability of these sources with existing and planned telescopes. We define a family of models characterized by two parameters: the Lyman continuum escape fraction fc from the sources and the clumpiness parameter C of the intergalactic medium. The minimum surface brightness model corresponds to a value of unity for both parameters. We find that the detection of the nonionizing UV continuum of the reionization sources will be difficult to accomplish before the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) if these sources have a mean surface brightness close to the minimum value. However, if the values of fc and C are more realistic, the reionization sources may well be detected by the Hubble Space Telescope before JWST, perhaps by exploiting gravitational lensing amplification by foreground clusters of galaxies. Instead of a detection in the continuum, one may attempt to detect the Lyα emission line by narrowband imaging. Present Lyα searches at z>6 suggest that either the typical sources are fainter than dwarf galaxies or the escape fraction of ionizing photons is much higher than 50%, so that there are no bright compact H II regions formed around the ionizing sources.
The Astrophysical Journal
- Pub Date:
- January 2004
- Cosmology: Theory;
- Galaxies: High-Redshift;
- Galaxies: Intergalactic Medium;
- 28 pages, 6 figures. Accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal (to appear in vol. 600, N2, 10 January 2004)