Delayed Photons from Binary Evolution Help Reionize the Universe

Amy Secunda, Renyue Cen, Taysun Kimm, Ylva Götberg, Selma E. De Mink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


High-resolution numerical simulations including feedback and aimed at calculating the escape fraction (f esc) of hydrogen-ionizing photons often assume stellar radiation based on single-stellar population synthesis models. However, strong evidence suggests the binary fraction of massive stars is ⪆70%. Moreover, simulations so far have yielded values of f esc falling only on the lower end of the ∼10%-20% range, the amount presumed necessary to reionize the universe. Analyzing a high-resolution (4 pc) cosmological radiation-hydrodynamic simulation, we study how f esc changes when we include two different products of binary stellar evolution-stars stripped of their hydrogen envelopes and massive blue stragglers. Both produce significant amounts of ionizing photons 10-200 Myr after each starburst. We find the relative importance of these photons to be amplified with respect to escaped ionizing photons, because peaks in star formation rates (SFRs) and f esc are often out of phase by this 10-200 Myr. Additionally, low-mass, bursty galaxies emit Lyman continuum radiation primarily from binary products when SFRs are low. Observations of these galaxies by the James Webb Space Telescope could provide crucial information on the evolution of binary stars as a function of redshift. Overall, including stripped stars and massive blue stragglers increases our photon-weighted mean escape fraction (fesc) by ∼13% and ∼10%, respectively, resulting in fesc =17%. Our results emphasize that using updated stellar population synthesis models with binary stellar evolution provides a more sound physical basis for stellar reionization.

Original languageEnglish
Article number72
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Sept 20

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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