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Extracting the Cosmic History from Diffuse Backgrounds


Pritchard, Jonathan Robin (2007) Extracting the Cosmic History from Diffuse Backgrounds. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/W3BF-8Q61.


The modern picture of the Universe resembles a detective novel with the first page and the middle chapters removed and the ending unwritten. Observations of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) have given cosmologists a snapshot of the Universe when it was only a few hundred thousand years old. At the same time, large galaxy surveys, such as SDSS and 2dF, have shed light on the distribution of matter in the local Universe. From the combination of these two data sets, cosmological parameters can be measured to percent accuracy. Two main frontiers remain: inflation, the domain of high-energy physics, and the epoch of reionization, the period connecting the linear age of the CMB with that of the present day. Added to this are the indications from supernovae of an acceleration in the expansion rate suggesting modifications to gravity or the presence of an esoteric new form of energy.

In this work, we investigate uses of various radiation backgrounds for probing the different epochs of this cosmic history. We examine (i) the use of B-mode polarization of the CMB induced by an inflationary gravitational wave background to probe inflation, (ii) the importance of higher Lyman series photons in pumping of the 21 cm line and the consequences for the 21 cm signal from the first stars, (iii) the atomic physics of Lyman series photon scattering in the intergalactic medium and the consequences for heating and coupling of the 21 cm line, (iv) the possibility of using the 21 cm line to probe inhomogeneous X-ray heating of the IGM by a population of early X-ray sources, and (v) the impact of inhomogeneous reionization on galaxy formation and the consequences for our ability to use large galaxy surveys to constrain dark energy. Together, these chapters significantly extend our understanding of important windows into the early Universe.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:21 cm; cosmology; dark ages; early universe; first stars
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Kamionkowski, Marc P.
Thesis Committee:
  • Kamionkowski, Marc P. (chair)
  • Benson, Andrew J.
  • Lange, Andrew E.
  • Wise, Mark B.
Defense Date:22 May 2007
Non-Caltech Author Email:j.pritchard (AT)
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-05292007-112654
Persistent URL:
Pritchard, Jonathan Robin0000-0003-4127-5353
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:2247
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:31 May 2007
Last Modified:26 Feb 2020 22:13

Thesis Files

PDF (thesis_pritchard.pdf) - Final Version
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