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The evolution of the low-density H i intergalactic medium from z = 3.6 to 0: Data, transmitted flux, and H i column density

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Kim, TS 
Wakker, BP 
Nasir, F 
Carswell, RF 
Savage, BD 


We present a new, uniform analysis of the HI transmitted flux (F) and HI column density (N(HI)) distribution in the low-density IGM as a function of redshift z for 0<z<3.6 using 55 HST/COS FUV (Delta(z)=7.2 at z<0.5), five HST/STIS+COS NUV (Delta(z)=1.3 at z~1) and 24 VLT/UVES and Keck/HIRES (Delta(z)=11.6 at 1.7<z<3.6) AGN spectra. We performed a consistent, uniform Voigt profile analysis to combine spectra taken with different instruments, to reduce systematics and to remove metal-line contamination. We confirm previously known conclusions on firmer quantitative grounds in particular by improving the measurements at z~1. Two flux statistics at 0<F<1, the mean HI flux and the flux probability distribution function (PDF), show that considerable evolution occurs from z=3.6 to z=1.5, after which it slows down to become effectively stable for z<0.5. However, there are large sightline variations. For the HI column density distribution function (CDDF, f proptional to N(HI)^(-beta)) at log (N(HI)/1cm^-2)=[13.5, 16.0], beta increases as z decreases from beta~1.60 at z~3.4 to beta~1.82 at z~0.1. The CDDF shape at lower redshifts can be reproduced by a small amount of clockwise rotation of a higher-z CDDF with a slightly larger CDDF normalisation. The absorption line number per z (dn/dz) shows a similar evolutionary break at z~1.5 as seen in the flux statistics. High-N(HI) absorbers evolve more rapidly than low-N(HI) absorbers to decrease in number or cross-section with time. The individual dn/dz shows a large scatter at a given z. The scatter increases toward lower z, possibly caused by a stronger clustering at lower z.



intergalactic medium, quasars: absorption lines, cosmology: observations

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Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Oxford University Press (OUP)
Science and Technology Facilities Council (ST/N000927/1)
Science and Technology Facilities Council (ST/S000623/1)