Indexed on: 10 Jan '01Published on: 10 Jan '01Published in: Astrophysics
We use a compilation of cosmic microwave anisotropy data to constrain the epoch of reionization in the Universe, as a function of cosmological parameters. We consider spatially-flat cosmologies, varying the matter density $\Omega_0$ (the flatness being restored by a cosmological constant), the Hubble parameter $h$ and the spectral index $n$ of the primordial power spectrum. Our results are quoted both in terms of the maximum permitted optical depth to the last-scattering surface, and in terms of the highest allowed reionization redshift assuming instantaneous reionization. For critical-density models, significantly-tilted power spectra are excluded as they cannot fit the current data for any amount of reionization, and even scale-invariant models must have an optical depth to last scattering of below 0.3. For the currently-favoured low-density model with $\Omega_0 = 0.3$ and a cosmological constant, the earliest reionization permitted to occur is at around redshift 35, which roughly coincides with the highest estimate in the literature. We provide general fitting functions for the maximum permitted optical depth, as a function of cosmological parameters. We do not consider the inclusion of tensor perturbations, but if present they would strengthen the upper limits we quote.