All-sky signals from recombination to reionization with the SKA

R. Subrahmanyan, U. N. Shankar, J. Pritchard, H. K. Vedantham

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Cosmic evolution in the hydrogen content of the Universe through recombination and up to the end of reionization is expected to be revealed as subtle spectral features in the uniform extragalactic cosmic radio background. The redshift evolution in the excitation temperature of the 21-cm spin flip transition of neutral hydrogen appears as redshifted emission and absorption against the cosmic microwave background. The precise signature of the spectral trace from cosmic dawn and the epoch of reionization are dependent on the spectral radiance, abundance and distribution of the first bound systems of stars and early galaxies, which govern the evolution in the spin-flip level populations. Redshifted 21 cm from these epochs when the spin temperature deviates from the temperature of the ambient relic cosmic microwave background results in an all-sky spectral structure in the 40-200 MHz range, almost wholly within the band of SKA-Low. Another spectral structure from gas evolution is redshifted recombination lines from epoch of recombination of hydrogen and helium; the weak all-sky spectral structure arising from this event is best detected at the upper end of the 350-3050 MHz band of SKA-mid. Total power spectra of SKA interferometer elements form the measurement set for these faint signals from recombination and reionization; the inter-element interferometer visibilities form a calibration set. The challenge is in precision polarimetric calibration of the element spectral response and solving for additives and unwanted confusing leakages of sky angular structure modes into spectral modes. Herein we discuss observing methods and design requirements that make possible these all-sky SKA measurements of the cosmic evolution of hydrogen.

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