AR 15032 (Archival Research)

Thu Jul 25 13:45:56 GMT 2024

Principal Investigator: Vikram Khaire
PI Institution: University of California - Santa Barbara
Investigators (xml)

Title: Filling the Void: A Comprehensive Survey of the Intergalactic Medium at z~1 Using STIS/COS Archival Spectra
Cycle: 25

There exists a large void in our understanding of the intergalactic medium (IGM) at z=0.5-1.5, spanning a significant cosmic time of 4 Gyr. This hole resulted from a paucity of near-UV QSO spectra, which were historically very expensive to obtain. However, with the advent of COS and the HST UV initiative, sufficient STIS/COS NUV spectra have finally become available, enabling the first statistical analyses. We propose a comprehensive study of the z~1 IGM using the Ly-alpha forest of 26 archival QSO spectra. This analysis will: (1) measure the distribution of HI absorbers to several percent precision down to log NHI < 13 to test our model of the IGM, and determine the extragalactic UV background (UVB) at that epoch; (2) measure the Ly-alpha forest power spectrum to ~12%, providing another precision test of LCDM and our theory of the IGM; (3) measure the thermal state of the IGM, which reflects the balance of heating (photoheating, HI/HeII reionization) and cooling (Hubble expansion) of cosmic baryons, and directly verify the predicted cooldown of IGM gas after reionization for the first time; (4) generate high-quality reductions, coadds, and continuum fits that will be released to the public to enable other science cases. These results, along with our state-of-the-art hydrodynamical simulations, and theoretical models of the UVB, will fill the 4 Gyr hole in our understanding of the IGM. When combined with existing HST and ground-based data from lower and higher z, they will lead to a complete, empirical description of the IGM from HI reionization to the present, spanning more than 10 Gyr of cosmic history, adding substantially to Hubble's legacy of discovery on the IGM.