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The Contribution of Supernovae to Cosmic Reionization

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011


While stars are widely discussed as the source of the high-energy photons that reionized the universe, an additional source of ionizing photons that must also contribute to reionization in this scenario are the supernovae (SNe) which mark the end of the life of massive stars. Here we estimate the relative contributions of SNe and stars to reionization. While the rate at which ionizing photons are produced in SNe shocks is well below that at which they are produced by stars, the harder spectra of radiation emitted from SNe lead to an enhanced escape fraction of SN-generated photons relative to that of stellar photons. In particular, along a given line of sight out of a galaxy, we find that for neutral hydrogen column densities N H >~ 1018 cm-2 the contribution to reionization from SNe is greater than that from stars. Drawing on the results of simulations presented in the literature, we find that the overall (line-of-sight-averaged) SNe shock-generated ionizing photon escape fraction is larger than the stellar photon escape fraction by a factor of sime4 to sime7, depending on the metallicity of the stellar population. Overall, our results suggest that the effect of SNe is an enhancement of up to ~10% in the fraction of hydrogen reionized by stellar sources. We briefly discuss the implications of our results for the population of galaxies responsible for reionization.

    Research areas

  • cosmology: theory, dark ages, reionization, first stars, radiative transfer, supernovae: general

ID: 11174025