Threshold probability functions and thermal inhomogeneities in the Lyα forest

Khee Gan Lee, David N. Spergel

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14 Scopus citations


We introduce to astrophysics the threshold probability functions S 2, C 2, and D 2 first derived by Torquato etal., which effectively samples the flux probability distribution function (PDF) of the Lyα forest at different spatial scales. These statistics are tested on mock Lyα forest spectra based on various toy models for HeII reionization, with homogeneous models with various temperature-density relations as well as models with temperature inhomogeneities. These mock samples have systematics and noise added to simulate the latest Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 7 (SDSS DR7) data. We find that the flux PDF from SDSS DR7 can be used to constrain the temperature-density relation γ (where T ∝ (1 + Δ)γ - 1) of the intergalactic medium (IGM) at z = 2.5 to a precision of Δγ = 0.2 at ∼4σ confidence. The flux PDF is degenerate to temperature inhomogeneities in the IGM arising from HeII reionization, but we find S 2 can detect these inhomogeneities at ∼3σ, with the assumption that the flux continuum of the Lyα forest can be determined to 9% accuracy, approximately the error from current fitting methods. If the flux continuum can be determined to 3% accuracy, then S 2 is capable of constraining the characteristic scale of temperature inhomogeneities, with ∼4σ differentiation between toy models with hot bubble radii of 50 h -1 Mpc and 25 h -1 Mpc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number21
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 10 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • cosmology: theory
  • intergalactic medium
  • large-scale structure of universe
  • methods: data analysis
  • quasars: absorption lines


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