Charting the parameter space of the 21-cm power spectrum

Aviad Cohen, Anastasia Fialkov, Rennan Barkana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The high-redshift 21-cm signal of neutral hydrogen is expected to be observed within the next decade and will reveal epochs of cosmic evolution that have been previously inaccessible. Due to the lack of observations, many of the astrophysical processes that took place at early times are poorly constrained. In recent work we explored the astrophysical parameter space and the resulting large variety of possible global (sky-averaged) 21-cm signals. Here we extend our analysis to the fluctuations in the 21-cm signal, accounting for those introduced by density and velocity, Ly α radiation, X-ray heating, and ionization. While the radiation sources are usually highlighted, we find that in many cases the density fluctuations play a significant role at intermediate redshifts. Using both the power spectrum and its slope, we show that properties of high-redshift sources can be extracted from the observable features of the fluctuation pattern. For instance, the peak amplitude of ionization fluctuations can be used to estimate whether heating occurred early or late and, in the early case, to also deduce the cosmic mean ionized fraction at that time. The slope of the power spectrum has a more universal redshift evolution than the power spectrum itself and can thus be used more easily as a tracer of high-redshift astrophysics. Its peaks can be used, for example, to estimate the redshift of the Ly α coupling transition and the redshift of the heating transition (and the mean gas temperature at that time). We also show that a tight correlation is predicted between features of the power spectrum and of the global signal, potentially yielding important consistency checks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2193-2217
Number of pages25
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Cosmology: theory
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: high redshift
  • Intergalactic medium


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