The framework of the studies presented in this thesis is the one-dimensional power spectrum of the transmitted flux in the Lyman-alpha forests. The Lyman-alpha forest is an an absorption pattern seen in the spectra of high redshift quasars corresponding to the absorption of the quasar light by the hydrogen clouds along the line of sight. It is a powerful cosmological tool as it probes relatively small scales, of the order of a few Mpc. It is also sensible to small non-linear effects such as the one induced by massive neutrinos.
First, we have developed two independent methods to measure the one-dimensional power spectrum of the transmitted flux in the Lyman-alpha forest. The first method is based on a Fourier transform, and the second on a maximum likelihood estimator. The two methods are independent and have different systematic uncertainties. The determination of the noise level in the data spectra was subject to a novel treatment, because of its significant impact on the derived power spectrum. We applied the two methods to 13,821 quasar spectra from SDSS-III/BOSS DR9 selected from a larger sample of over 60,000 spectra on the basis of their high quality, large signal-to-noise ratio, and good spectral resolution. The power spectra measured using either approach are in good agreement over all twelve redshift bins from =2.2 to =4.4, and scales from 0.001 (km/s)^−1 to 0.02 (km/s)^−1. We carefully determined the methodological and instrumental systematic uncertainties of our measurements.
Then, we present a suite of cosmological N-body simulations with cold dark matter, baryons and neutrinos aiming at modeling the low-density regions of the IGM as probed by the Lyman-alpha forests at high redshift. The simulations are designed to match the requirements imposed by the quality of BOSS and eBOSS data. They are made using either 768^3 or 192^3 particles of each type, spanning volumes ranging from (25 Mpc/h)^3 for high-resolution simulations to (100 Mpc/h)^3 for large-volume ones. Using a splicing technique, the resolution is further enhanced to reach the equivalent of simulations with 3072^3 = 29 billion particles of each type in a (100 Mpc/h)^3 box size, i.e. a mean mass per gas particle of 1.2x10^5 solar masses. We show that the resulting power spectrum is accurate at the 2% level over the full range from a few Mpc to several tens of Mpc. We explore the effect on the one-dimensional transmitted-flux power spectrum of 4 cosmological parameters (n_s, sigma_8, Omega_m ,H_0), 2 astrophysical parameters (T_0, gamma) related to the heating rate of the IGM and the sum of the neutrino masses. By varying the input parameters around a central model chosen to be in agreement with the latest Planck results, we built a grid of simulations that allows the study of the impact on the flux power spectrum of these seven relevant parameters. We improve upon previous studies by not only measuring the effect of each parameter individually, but also probing the impact of the simultaneous variation of each pair of parameters. We thus provide a full second-order expansion, including cross-terms, around our central model. We check the validity of the second-order expansion with independent simulations obtained either with different cosmological parameters or different seeds for the initial condition generation. Finally, a comparison to the one-dimensional Lyman-alpha forest power spectrum obtained in the first part with BOSS data shows an excellent agreement.
Eventually, even if there are still some potential biases and systematic errors that need to be studied in our simulation, we performed cosmological fits combining our measurement of the one-dimensional power spectrum and other cosmological probes such as the CMB results provided by Planck. These preliminary results are very encouraging as they lead to some of the tighest cosmological constraints as of today, especially on the sum of the neutrino masses with an upper limit of 0.1 eV.