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Four direct measurements of the fine-structure constant 13 billion years ago

M. R. Wilczynska, J. K. Webb, M. Bainbridge, J. D. Barrow, S. E. I. Bosman, R. F. Carswell, M. P. Dąbrowski, V. Dumont, C.-C. Lee, A. C. O. Leite, K. Leszczyńska, J. Liske, K. Marosek, C. J. A. P. Martins, D. Milaković, P. Molaro, L. Pasquini

Observations of the redshift z = 7.085 quasar J1120+0641 are used to search for variations of the fine structure constant, a, over the redshift range 5:5 to 7:1. Observations at z = 7:1 probe the physics of the universe at only 0.8 billion years old. These are the most distant direct measurements of a to date and the first measurements using a near-IR spectrograph. A new AI analysis method is employed. Four measurements from the X-SHOOTER spectrograph on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) constrain changes in a relative to the terrestrial value (α0). The weighted mean electromagnetic force in this location in the universe deviates from the terrestrial value by Δα/α = (αz − α0)/α0 = (−2:18 ± 7:27) × 10−5, consistent with no temporal change. Combining these measurements with existing data, we find a spatial variation is preferred over a no-variation model at the 3:9σ level.

Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics; Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies; General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology

Science Advances
Volume 6, Number 17
2020 April

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Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia COMPETE 2020 PORTUGAL 2020 União Europeia