Studying the Large Scale Structure and interstellar Medium of Galaxies During the Epochs of Peak Cosmic Star formation and Reionization With Infrared Fine Structure Lines

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Physics & Astronomy
Astrophysics and Astronomy
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Infrared (IR) fine-structure (FS) lines from trace metals in the interstellar medium (ISM) of galaxies are valuable diagnostics of the physical conditions in a broad range of astrophysical environments, such gas irradiated by stellar far-ultraviolet (FUV) photons or X-rays from accreting supermassive black holes, called active galactic nuclei (AGN). The transparency of these lines to dust and their high escape fractions into the intergalactic medium (IGM) render them as useful probes to study the epochs of peak cosmic star formation (SF) and Reionization. Chapter 1 of this thesis is a study of the ISM of the Cloverleaf quasar. Observations of IR FS lines from singly ionized carbon and neutral oxygen have allowed us to assess the physical conditions—parametrized by their gas density and the impingent FUV flux—prevalent in atomic gas heated by stellar FUV photons. We find that UV heating from local SF is not sufficient to explain the measured FS and molecular luminosities, and suggest that X-ray heating from the AGN is required to simultaneously explain both sets of data. The general picture of the Cloverleaf ISM that emerges from our composite model is one where the [CII] and [OI]63 line emission is produced primarily within PDRs and HII regions of a 1.3-kpc wide starburst, which is embedded in a denser XDR component that is the dominant source of heating for the CO gas. The fact that the star-forming PDR and HII region gas is co-spatial with the XDR—and within ∼ 650 pc of the accreting black hole—provides strong evidence that SF is ongoing while immersed in a strong X-ray radiation field provided by the nearby AGN. This finding has implications for the co-evolution of supermassive black holes and their host galaxies. The work in this chapter will be submitted for first-author publication imminently. In Chapter 2, we explore the possibility of studying the redshifted far-IR fine-structure line emission using the three-dimensional (3-D) power spectra obtained with an imaging spectrometer. The intensity mapping approach measures the spatio-spectral fluctuations due to line emission from all galaxies, including those below the individual detection threshold. The technique provides 3-D measurements of galaxy clustering and moments of the galaxy luminosity function. Furthermore, the linear portion of the power spectrum can be used to measure the total line emission intensity including all sources through cosmic time with redshift information naturally encoded. Total line emission, when compared to the total star formation activity and/or other line intensities reveals evolution of the interstellar conditions of galaxies in aggregate. As a case study, we consider measurement of [CII] autocorrelation in the 0.5 < z < 1.5 epoch, where interloper lines are minimized, using far-IR/submm balloon-borne and future space-borne instruments with moderate and high sensitivity, respectively. In this context, we compare the intensity mapping approach to blind galaxy surveys based on individual detections. We find that intensity mapping is nearly always the best way to obtain the total line emission because blind, wide-field galaxy surveys lack sufficient depth and deep pencil beams do not observe enough galaxies in the requisite luminosity and redshift bins. Also, intensity mapping is often the most efficient way to measure the power spectrum shape, depending on the details of the luminosity function and the telescope aperture. The work in this chapter has been published in Uzgil et al. (2014). In the final Chapter, we consider the extension of intensity mapping experiments targeting IR FS lines to the late stages of the Epoch of Reionization (EoR), at z ∼ 7. Intensity mapping experiments of emission lines from the ISM of galaxies are highly complementary to experiments that are aiming to detect the 21 cm power spectrum during the same epoch, as the former is a direct probe of the sources of Reionization, and the latter is a probe of the effect of those sources on the surrounding IGM. Since current and planned observations are limited by cosmic variance at the bright end of the galaxy luminosity function, and will not be able to detect the faintest galaxies responsible for a significant fraction of the ionizing photon supply during EoR, intensity mapping is an appealing approach to study the nature and evolution of galaxies during this stage in the history of the Universe. Again, the utility of FS lines as ISM diagnostics, combined with the ability of intensity mapping to measure redshift-evolution in mean intensity of individual lines or the evolution of line ratios (constructed from multiple cross-power spectra), presents a unique and tantalizing opportunity to directly observe changes in properties of interstellar medium (such as hardness of the ionizing spectrum in galaxies and metallicity) that are important to galaxy evolution studies.

James E. Aguirre
Charles M. Bradford
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