The intrinsic bispectrum of the Cosmic Microwave Background

  • Guido Walter Pettinari

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Cosmology, intended as the study of the origin and evolution of the Universe and its components, has advanced from being a philosophical discipline to a data-driven science. Much of this progress was achieved in the last few decades thanks to the wealth of cosmological data from Earth and space-based experiments. The abundance of observational constraints has considerably narrowed the space for theoretical speculation, to the point that now most of the cosmological community agrees on a standard model of cosmology. A crucial assumption of this model is that the structure observed in the Universe, such as planets, stars and galaxies, can be ultimately traced back to tiny density perturbations in the early Universe. Therefore, a huge theoretical and experimental effort is being made by cosmologists and particle physicists to gain insight of the mechanism of generation of these primordial fluctuations, which remains still largely unknown. The bispectrum of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) has been recently recognised as a powerful probe of this mechanism, as it is sensitive to the non-Gaussian features in the seed fluctuations. To access this information, however, it is crucial to model the non-linear evolution of the CMB between the formation of the initial fluctuations and its observation, which results in the emergence of an intrinsic bispectrum.

The main purpose of this thesis is to quantify the intrinsic bispectrum and compute the bias it induces on the primordial signal. To do so, we develop SONG, a new and efficient code for solving the second-order Einstein-Boltzmann equations, and use it to estimate the intrinsic CMB non-Gaussianity arising from the non-linear evolution of density perturbations. The full calculation involves contributions from recombination and less tractable ones from terms integrated along the line of sight. We investigate the bias that this intrinsic bispectrum implies for searches of primordial non-Gaussianity. We find that the inclusion or omission of certain line of sight terms can make a large impact. When including all physical effects but lensing and time-delay, we find that the contamination from the intrinsic bispectrum generally leads to a small bias in the estimates of non-Gaussianity, which is good news for the prospect of using cosmic microwave background data to probe primordial non-Gaussianity. The intrinsic non-Gaussianity can be searched for directly, using the predicted signal as a template; our calculations suggest this signal is just beyond what is possible with the Planck CMB survey, with a signal-to-noise rising to unity only for an angular resolution of `max = 3000.

Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorRobert Crittenden (Supervisor) & David Wands (Supervisor)

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