Detecting the polarization induced by scattering of the microwave background quadrupole in galaxy clusters

Alex Hall*, Anthony Challinor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We analyze the feasibility of detecting the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) caused by scattering of the remote temperature quadrupole by galaxy clusters with forthcoming CMB polarization surveys. For low-redshift clusters, the signal is strongly correlated with the local large-scale temperature and polarization anisotropies, and the best prospect for detecting the cluster signal is via cross-correlation. For high-redshift clusters, the correlation with the local temperature is weaker and the power in the uncorrelated component of the cluster polarization can be used to enhance detection. We derive linear and quadratic maximum-likelihood estimators for these cases, and forecast signal-to-noise values for the Sunyaev-Zeldovich (SZ) surveys of a Planck-like mission and SPTPol. Our estimators represent an optimal "stacking" analysis of the polarization from clusters. We find that the detectability of the effect is sensitive to the cluster gas density distribution, as well as the telescope resolution, cluster redshift distribution, and sky coverage. We find that the effect is too small to be detected in current and near-future SZ surveys without dedicated polarization follow-up, and that a rms noise on the Stokes parameters of roughly 1 mu K-arcmin for each cluster field is required for a 2s detection, assuming roughly 550 clusters are observed. We show that ACTPol is in a better position to observe the effect than SPTPol due to its advantageous survey location on the sky, and we discuss the novel spatial dependence of the signal. We discuss and quantify potential biases from the kinetic part of the signal caused by the relative motion of the cluster with respect to the CMB, and from the background CMB polarization behind the cluster, discussing ways in which these biases might be mitigated. Our formalism should be important for next-generation CMB polarization missions, which we argue will be able to measure this effect with high signal-to-noise. This will allow for an important consistency test of the CDM model on scales that are inaccessible to other probes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number063518
Number of pages20
JournalPhysical Review D - Particles, Fields, Gravitation and Cosmology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2014




Dive into the research topics of 'Detecting the polarization induced by scattering of the microwave background quadrupole in galaxy clusters'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this