Rayleigh scattering and microwave background fluctuations

Qingjuan Yu, David N. Spergel, Jeremiah P. Ostriker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


During the recombination epoch, cosmic background photons coupled not only to free electrons through Thompson scattering, but also to neutral hydrogen through Rayleigh scattering. This latter is a ∼2% effect for photons near the peak of the photon energy distribution at z = 800 and a ∼0.2% effect at z = 1100. Including Rayleigh scattering in the calculation reduces Silk damping at fixed redshift, alters the position of the surface of last scattering, and alters the propagation of acoustic waves. We estimate the amplitude of these effects. For the Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP), Rayleigh scattering increases the anisotropy spectrum by 0.1% at the most. For the highest frequencies of the Planck Surveyor, the effects of Rayleigh scattering are much more dramatic (decreasing the anisotropy spectrum by 3% at v ∼ 550 GHz and multipole number l ∼ 1000). The relative difference between the spectra of low and high frequencies is imposed by an oscillation with a function of multipole l, and the oscillation amplitude is up to 0.5% between 100 and 550 GHz. Rayleigh scattering also slows the decoupling between radiation and matter, but the effect is undetectably small.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-28
Number of pages6
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Cosmic microwave background
  • Cosmology: Theory
  • Scattering


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