New light on 21cm intensity fluctuations from the dark ages
January 30, 2014
Abstract: Fluctuations of the 21 cm brightness temperature before the formation of the first stars hold the promise of becoming a high-precision cosmological probe in the future. The growth of over densities is very well described by perturbation theory at that epoch and the signal can in principle be predicted to arbitrary accuracy for given cosmological parameters. Recently, Tseliakhovich and Hirata pointed out a previously neglected and important physical effect, due to the fact that baryons and cold dark matter (CDM) have supersonic relative velocities after recombination. This relative velocity suppresses the growth of matter fluctuations on scales k~10-10^3 Mpc^-1. In addition, the amplitude of the small-scale power spectrum is modulated on the large scales over which the relative velocity varies, corresponding to k~0.005-1 Mpc^-1. In this talk, I will describe the effect of the relative velocity on 21 cm brightness temperature fluctuations from redshifts z>=30. I will show that the 21 cm power spectrum is affected on most scales. On small scales, the signal is typically suppressed several tens of percent, except for extremely small scales (k>=2000 Mpc-1) for which the fluctuations are boosted by resonant excitation of acoustic waves. On large scales, 21 cm fluctuations are enhanced due to the non-linear dependence of the brightness temperature on the underlying gas density and temperature. The enhancement of the 21 cm power spectrum is of a few percent at k~0.1 Mpc-1 and up to tens of percent at k<=0.005 Mpc-1, for standard LCDM cosmology. In principle this effect allows to probe the small-scale matter power spectrum not only through a measurement of small angular scales but also through its effect on large angular scales.