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We present the largest homogeneous survey of redshift > 4.4 damped Lyα systems (DLAs) using the spectra of 163 quasars that comprise the Giant Gemini GMOS (GGG) survey. With this survey we make the most precise high-redshift measurement of the cosmological mass density of neutral hydrogen, ΩHI. After correcting for systematic effects using a combination of mock and higher-resolution spectra, we find ΩHI= 0.98+0.20-0.18 × 10−3 at 〈z〉 = 4.9, assuming a 20% contribution from lower column density systems below the DLA threshold. By comparing to literature measurements at lower redshifts, we show that ΩHI can be described by the functional form ΩHI(z) ∝ (1 + z)0.4. This gradual decrease from z = 5 to 0 suggests that in the galaxies which dominate the cosmic star formation rate, Hi is a transitory gas phase fuelling star formation which must be continually replenished by more highly-ionized gas from the intergalactic medium, and from recycled galactic winds.
The accurate description of the properties of the Lyman-α forest is a spectacular success of the Cold Dark Matter theory of cosmological structure formation. After a brief review of early models, it is shown how numerical simulations have demonstrated the Lyman-α forest emerges from the cosmic web in the quasi-linear regime of overdensity. The quasi-linear nature of the structures allows accurate modeling, providing constraints on cosmological models over a unique range of scales and enabling the Lyman-α forest to serve as a bridge to the more complex problem of galaxy formation.
The spectra of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) are being used to construct a catalogue of QSO absorption lines, for use in studies of abundances, relevant radiation fields, number counts as a function of redshift, and other matters, including the evolution of these parameters. The catalogue includes intervening, associated, and BAL absorbers, in order to allow a clearer definition of the relationships between these three classes. We describe the motivation for and the data products of the project to build the SDSS QSO absorption line catalogue.
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