Of the many proposed extensions to the ΛCDM paradigm, a model in which neutrinos self-interact until close to the epoch of matter-radiation equality has been shown to provide a good fit to current cosmic microwave background (CMB) data, while at the same time alleviating tensions with late-time measurements of the expansion rate and matter fluctuation amplitude. Interestingly, CMB fits to this model either pick out a specific large value of the neutrino interaction strength, or are consistent with the extremely weak neutrino interaction found in ΛCDM, resulting in a bimodal posterior distribution for the neutrino self-interaction cross section. In this paper, we explore why current cosmological data select this particular large neutrino self-interaction strength, and by consequence, disfavor intermediate values of the self-interaction cross section. We show how it is the 1000 CMB temperature anisotropies, most recently measured by the Planck satellite, that produce this bimodality. We also establish that smaller scale temperature data, and improved polarization data measuring the temperature-polarization cross-correlation, will best constrain the neutrino self-interaction strength. We forecast that the upcoming Simons Observatory should be capable of distinguishing between the models.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)