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The contribution of globular clusters to cosmic reionization

  • Ma, Xiangcheng
  • Quataert, Eliot
  • Wetzel, Andrew
  • Faucher-Giguère, Claude-André
  • Boylan-Kolchin, Michael
Publication Date
May 11, 2021
eScholarship - University of California
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ABSTRACT We study the escape fraction of ionizing photons (fesc) in two cosmological zoom-in simulations of galaxies in the reionization era with halo mass Mhalo ∼ 1010 and $10^{11}\, \mathrm{ M}_{\odot }$ (stellar mass M* ∼ 107 and $10^9\, \mathrm{ M}_{\odot }$) at z = 5 from the Feedback in Realistic Environments project. These simulations explicitly resolve the formation of proto-globular clusters (GCs) self-consistently, where 17–39 per cent of stars form in bound clusters during starbursts. Using post-processing Monte Carlo radiative transfer calculations of ionizing radiation, we compute fesc from cluster stars and non-cluster stars formed during a starburst over ∼100 Myr in each galaxy. We find that the averaged fesc over the lifetime of a star particle follows a similar distribution for cluster stars and non-cluster stars. Clusters tend to have low fesc in the first few Myr, presumably because they form preferentially in more extreme environments with high optical depths; the fesc increases later as feedback starts to destroy the natal cloud. On the other hand, some non-cluster stars formed between cluster complexes or in the compressed shells at the front of a superbubble can also have high fesc. We find that cluster stars on average have comparable fesc to non-cluster stars. This result is robust across several star formation models in our simulations. Our results suggest that the fraction of ionizing photons from proto-GCs to cosmic reionization is comparable to the cluster formation efficiencies in high-redshift galaxies and thus proto-GCs likely contribute an appreciable fraction of photons but are not the dominant sources for reionization.

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