DOI: 10.3390/universe10030141 ISSN: 2218-1997

Constraining the Initial Mass Function in the Epoch of Reionization from Astrophysical and Cosmological Data

Andrea Lapi, Giovanni Gandolfi, Lumen Boco, Francesco Gabrielli, Marcella Massardi, Balakrishna S. Haridasu, Carlo Baccigalupi, Alessandro Bressan, Luigi Danese
  • General Physics and Astronomy

We aim to constrain the stellar initial mass function (IMF) during the epoch of reionization. To this purpose, we build up a semi-empirical model for the reionization history of the Universe based on various ingredients: the latest determination of the UV galaxy luminosity function from JWST out to redshift z≲12; data-inferred and simulation-driven assumptions on the redshift-dependent escape fraction of ionizing photons from primordial galaxies; a simple yet flexible parameterization of the IMF ϕ(m⋆)∼m⋆ξe−m⋆,c/m⋆ in terms of a high-mass end slope ξ<0 and a characteristic mass m⋆,c, below which a flattening or a bending sets in (allowing description of a variety of IMF shapes from the classic Salpeter to top-heavy ones); the PARSEC stellar evolution code to compute the UV and ionizing emission from different stars’ masses as a function of age and metallicity; and a few physical constraints related to stellar and galaxy formation in faint galaxies at the reionization redshifts. We then compare our model outcomes with the reionization observables from different astrophysical and cosmological probes and perform Bayesian inference on the IMF parameters via a standard MCMC technique. We find that the IMF slope ξ is within the range from −2.8 to −2.3, consistent with direct determination from star counts in the Milky Way, while appreciably flatter slopes are excluded at great significance. However, the bestfit value of the IMF characteristic mass m⋆,c∼a few M⊙ implies a suppression in the formation of small stellar masses at variance with the IMF in the local Universe. This may be induced by the thermal background of ∼20–30 K provided by CMB photons at the reionization redshifts. We check that our results are robust against different parameterizations for the redshift evolution of the escape fraction. Finally, we investigate the implications of our reconstructed IMF for the recent JWST detections of massive galaxies at and beyond the reionization epoch, showing that any putative tension with the standard cosmological framework is substantially alleviated.

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