NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2011A-0264

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Proposal Information for 2011A-0264


PI: Gabor Worseck, UC Santa Cruz, gworseck@ucolick.org
Address: UCO/Lick Observatory, University of California, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz CA 95064, USA

CoI: John M. O'Meara, Saint Michael's College
CoI: Sara L. Ellison, University of Victoria
CoI: Avery Meiksin, University of Edinburgh
CoI: J. Xavier Prochaska, UC Santa Cruz
CoI: Sebastian Lopez, Universidad de Chile
CoI: Michael T. Murphy, Swinburne University of Technology
CoI: George Becker, University of Cambridge
CoI: Brice Menard, University of Toronto
CoI: Fred Hamann, University of Florida

Title: Surveying the Post-Reionization Universe with Quasar Spectroscopy III

Abstract: We propose to obtain GMOS-S spectroscopy of 27 quasars as part of a multi-semester endeavor to study the z>4.4 IGM with Gemini (a related 2011A GMOS-N proposal is submitted). This request completes our 3-semester program that will ultimately provide 160 R 850 spectra of z>4.4 quasars, the largest homogeneous sample of science-grade high-redshift quasar spectra in existence. This sample will yield the first statistically meaningful measurements of the neutral gas content, the number density of optically thick absorbers, and the mean hydrogen absorption at z>4.5. In particular, spectral stacks will enable the first direct measurement of the mean free path to ionizing radiation at these redshifts, and probe its expected strong evolution near the epoch of reionization. This novel route to constrain reionization with the Lyman forest requires a large, homogeneous sample of higher-quality spectra than provided by SDSS. Gemini/GMOS can efficiently supply these data, which we will publicly release in reduced form. They will also permit (i) an unparalleled survey for damped Lya and Lyman limit systems at z>4.5; (ii) constraints on the mean opacity of Lyman series transitions; and (iii) a survey for variable emission/absorption in quasar spectra.


National Optical Astronomy Observatory, 950 North Cherry Avenue, P.O. Box 26732, Tucson, Arizona 85726, Phone: (520) 318-8000, Fax: (520) 318-8360



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