How is the reionization epoch defined?

Marialuce Bruscoli, Andrea Ferrara, Evan Scannapieco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


We study the effect of a prolonged epoch of reionization on the angular power spectrum of the cosmic microwave background. Typically reionization studies assume a sudden phase transition, with the intergalactic gas moving from a fully neutral to a fully ionized state at a fixed redshift. Such models are at odds, however, with detailed investigations of reionization, which favour a more extended transition. We have modified the code CMBFAST to allow the treatment of more realistic reionization histories and applied it to data obtained from numerical simulations of reionization. We show that the prompt reionization assumed by CMBFAST in its original form heavily contaminates any constraint derived on the reionization redshift. We find, however, that prompt reionization models give a reasonable estimate of the epoch at which the mean cosmic ionization fraction was ≈50 per cent, and provide a very good measure of the overall Thomson optical depth. The overall differences in the temperature (polarization) angular power spectra between prompt and extended models with equal optical depths are less than 1 per cent (10 per cent).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L43-L47
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 21 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Cosmic microwave background
  • Methods: numerical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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