AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 157 The Universe at High Redshift
Oral, Wednesday, 2:00-3:30pm, January 11, 2006, Maryland

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[157.03] A High-Resolution Study of the IGM at 5 < z < 6.4

G. D. Becker, W. L. W. Sargent (Caltech), M. Rauch (Carnegie), R. A. Simcoe (MIT)

The complete Lyman-alpha absorption seen in the spectra of z > 6 quasars suggest that the reionization of the IGM may have completed as late as z = 6.2. However, this late reionization scenario remains controversial due in part to studies of galaxy luminosity functions, which favor a highly-ionized IGM out to z > 6.5. In order to improve our understanding of the IGM at these redshifts, we have acquired Keck/HIRES spectra of nine quasars at 4.8 < z < 6.4. These are the first high-resolution spectra ever taken at z > 4.6, and are providing the first detailed look at the very high-redshift IGM. We will present the first results from this data set, highlighting the evolution of the Lyman-alpha forest and the quasar proximity regions. The high-resolution data also reveal an overabundance of O I systems at z > 6 towards SDSS J1148+5251. These O I absorbers may represent the last pockets of neutral gas to be reionized at z ~6. Alternatively, they may be caused by enriched galaxy halos physically similar to those observed at lower redshift. For these systems we are able to measure accurate column densities of O I, C II, and Si II. The relative abundances are consistent with the yields of ordinary Type II supernovae, with at most ~30% of the silicon contributed by very massive stars.

GDB and WLWS have been supported by the NSF through grants AST 99-00733 and AST 02-06067. MR has been supported by the NSF under grant AST 00-98492. RAS has been supported by the MIT Pappalardo Fellowship program.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: gdb@astro.caltech.edu

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