The short ionizing photon mean free path at z = 6 in Cosmic Dawn III, a new fully coupled radiation-hydrodynamical simulation of the Epoch of Reionization

Joseph S.W. Lewis, Pierre Ocvirk, Jenny G. Sorce, Yohan Dubois, Dominique Aubert, Luke Conaboy, Paul R. Shapiro, Taha Dawoodbhoy, Romain Teyssier, Gustavo Yepes, Stefan Gottlöber, Yann Rasera, Kyungjin Ahn, Ilian T. Iliev, Hyunbae Park, Émilie Thélie

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13 Scopus citations


Recent determinations of the mean free path of ionizing photons (mfp) in the intergalactic medium (IGM) at z = 6 are lower than many theoretical predictions. In order to gain insight, we investigate the evolution of the mfp in our new massive fully coupled radiation-hydrodynamics cosmological simulation of reionization: Cosmic Dawn III (CoDa III). CoDa III's scale (94 3 cMpc3) and resolution (8192 grid) make it particularly suitable to study the IGM during reionization. The simulation was performed with ramses-cudaton on Summit, and used 13 1072 processors coupled to 24 576 GPUs, making it the largest reionization simulation, and largest ever ramses simulation. A superior agreement with global constraints on reionization is obtained in CoDa III over Cosmic Dawn II (CoDa II), especially for the evolution of the neutral hydrogen fraction and the cosmic photoionization rate, thanks to an improved calibration, later end of reionization (z = 5.6), and higher spatial resolution. Analysing the mfp, we find that CoDa III reproduces the most recent observations very well, from z = 6 to z = 4.6. We show that the distribution of the mfp in CoDa III is bimodal, with short (neutral) and long (ionized) mfp modes, due to the patchiness of reionization and the coexistence of neutral versus ionized regions during reionization. The neutral mode peaks at sub-kpc to kpc scales of mfp, while the ionized mode peak evolves from 0.1 Mpc h-1 at z = 7 to ∼10 Mpc h-1 at z = 5.2. Computing the mfp as the average of the ionized mode provides the best match to the recent observational determinations. The distribution reduces to a single neutral (ionized) mode at z > 13 (z < 5).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3389-3397
Number of pages9
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • dark ages, reionization, first stars
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • intergalactic medium
  • large-scale structure of Universe


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