Interpreting LOFAR 21-cm signal upper limits at z ≈ 9.1 in the context of high-z galaxy and reionization observations

Bradley Greig, Andrei Mesinger, Léon V.E. Koopmans, Benedetta Ciardi, Garrelt Mellema, Saleem Zaroubi, Sambit K. Giri, Raghunath Ghara, Abhik Ghosh, Ilian T. Iliev, Florent G. Mertens, Rajesh Mondal, André R. Offringa, Vishambhar N. Pandey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using the latest upper limits on the 21-cm power spectrum at z ≈ 9.1 from the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR), we explore the regions of parameter space which are inconsistent with the data. We use 21cmmc, a Monte Carlo Markov chain sampler of 21cmfast which directly forward models the three dimensional (3D) cosmic 21-cm signal in a fully Bayesian framework. We use the astrophysical parametrization from 21cmfast, which includes mass-dependent star formation rates and ionizing escape fractions as well as soft-band X-ray luminosities to place limits on the properties of the high-z galaxies. Further, we connect the disfavoured regions of parameter space with existing observational constraints on the Epoch of Reionization such as ultra-violet (UV) luminosity functions, background UV photoionization rate, intergalactic medium (IGM) neutral fraction, and the electron scattering optical depth. We find that all models exceeding the 21-cm signal limits set by LOFAR at z ≈ 9.1 are excluded at ≳2σ by other probes. Finally, we place limits on the IGM spin temperature from LOFAR, disfavouring at 95 per cent confidence spin temperatures below ∼2.6 K across an IGM neutral fraction range of $0.15 \lesssim \bar{x}_{\rm H\, \rm {\small I}} \lesssim 0.6$. Note, these limits are only obtained from 141 h of data in a single redshift bin. With tighter upper limits, across multiple redshift bins expected in the near future from LOFAR, more viable models will be ruled out. Our approach demonstrates the potential of forward modelling tools such as 21cmmc in combining 21-cm observations with other high-z probes to constrain the astrophysics of galaxies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s) Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Astronomical Society.


  • cosmology: theory
  • dark ages, reionization, first stars
  • diffuse radiation
  • early Universe
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • intergalactic medium


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