Measurements of the z ∼ 6 intergalactic medium optical depth and transmission spikes using a new z > 6.3 quasar sample

Jinyi Yang, Feige Wang, Xiaohui Fan, Joseph F. Hennawi, Frederick B. Davies, Minghao Yue, Anna Christina Eilers, Emanuele P. Farina, Xue Bing Wu, Fuyan Bian, Fabio Pacucci, Khee Gan Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


We report new measurements of the intergalactic medium (IGM) Lyα and Lyβ effective optical depth at 5.3 < z < 6.5, using a new sample of quasar sight lines including 32 quasars at 6.308 ≤z ≤ 7.00. These quasars provide a large statistical sample to measure the IGM evolution during the transition phase of the reionization epoch. We construct a data set of deep optical spectra of these quasars using VLT, Keck, Gemini, LBT, and MMT. We measure the Lyα effective optical depth at 5.36 < z < 6.57 using the Lyα forests of both individual spectra and the stacked spectrum. The large scatter of individual measurements is consistent with previous work, suggesting an inhomogeneous reionization process. Combining our new measurements and previous results, we obtain a best fit for the Lyα effective optical depth evolution at z > 5.3, ⊤ ⊥ (1 + z)8.6±1.0.We then estimate the observed Lyβ effective optical depth using Lyβ forests and convert them to Lyα optical depth for comparison, which provides additional constraints on the evolution of the IGM optical depth. The Lyβ-based measurements are generally in agreement with the best-fit evolution obtained from Lyα forests. Using this new sample, we identify 389 Lyα and 50 Lyβ transmission spikes at 5.5 < z < 6.3. The upper limits of Lyα optical depth estimated using transmission spikes are well consistent with our best-fit evolution. The evolution in number density of these high-redshift transmission spikes suggests a rapid transition phase at the end of the reionization. Comparison of our optical depth measurements with hydrodynamical simulations indicates an IGM neutral hydrogen fraction (fH )≳10- 4 I at z = 6.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberabbc1b
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 20 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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