Reionization and the large-scale 21-cm cosmic microwave background cross-correlation

Peter J. Adshead, Steven R. Furlanetto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Of the many probes of reionization, the 21-cm line and the cosmic microwave background (CMB) are among the most effective. We examine how the cross-correlation of the 21-cm brightness and the CMB Doppler fluctuations on large angular scales can be used to study this epoch. We employ a new model of the growth of large-scale fluctuations of the ionized fraction as reionization proceeds. We take into account the peculiar velocity field of baryons and show that its effect on the cross-correlation can be interpreted as a mixing of Fourier modes. We find that the cross-correlation signal is strongly peaked towards the end of reionization and that the sign of the correlation should be positive because of the inhomogeneity inherent to reionization. The signal peaks at degree scales (ℓ ∼ 100) and comes almost entirely from large physical scales (k ∼ 10-2 Mpc). Since many of the foregrounds and noise that plague low-frequency radio observations will not correlate with CMB measurements, the cross-correlation might appear to provide a robust diagnostic of the cosmological origin of the 21-cm radiation around the epoch of reionization. Unfortunately, we show that these signals are actually only weakly correlated and that cosmic variance dominates the error budget of any attempted detection. We conclude that the detection of a cross-correlation peak at degree-size angular scales is unlikely even with ideal experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-304
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Cosmic microwave background
  • Cosmology: theory
  • Diffuse radiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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