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Keywords:

  • quasars: absorption lines;
  • cosmology: theory;
  • large-scale structure of Universe

ABSTRACT

We examine the constraints on soft X-ray photon emissions from the reionization era. It is generally assumed that the Universe was reionized by ultraviolet photons radiated from massive stars. However, it has been argued that X-ray photons associated with the death of these stars would have contributed ∼10 per cent to the total number of ionizations via several channels. The parameter space for a significant component of cosmological reionization to be sourced by X-rays is limited by a few observations. We revisit the unresolved soft X-ray background constraint on high-redshift X-ray production and show that soft X-ray background measurements significantly limit the contribution to reionization from several potential sources: X-rays from X-ray binaries, from Compton scattering off supernovae-accelerated electrons, and from the annihilation of dark matter particles. We discuss the additional limits on high-redshift X-ray photon production from (1) z ∼ 3 measurements of metal absorption lines in quasar spectra, (2) the consensus that helium reionization was ending at z ≈ 3 and (3) measurements of the intergalactic medium's thermal history. We show that observations of z ∼ 3 metal lines allow little room for extra coeval soft X-ray emission from a non-standard X-ray sources. In addition, we show that the late reionization of helium makes it quite difficult to also ionize the hydrogen at z > 6 with a single source population (such as quasars) and that it likely requires the spectrum of ionizing emissions to soften with increasing redshift. However, we find that it is difficult to constrain an X-ray contribution to reionization from the intergalactic temperature history. We show that the intergalactic gas would have been heated to a narrower range of temperatures than is typically assumed at reionization, 2–3 × 104 K, with this temperature depending weakly on the ionizing sources’ spectra.