A. de Felice, __N. Frusciante__, G. Papadomanolakis

**Abstract**

The effective field theory of dark energy and modified gravity is supposed to well describe, at low energies, the behavior of the gravity modifications due to one extra scalar degree of freedom. The usual curvature perturbation is very useful when studying the conditions for the avoidance of ghost instabilities as well as the positivity of the squared speeds of propagation for both the scalar and tensor modes, or the Stuckelberg field performs perfectly when investigating the evolution of linear perturbations. We show that the viable parameter space identified by requiring no-ghost instabilities and positive squared speeds of propagation does not change by performing a field redefinition, while the requirement of the avoidance of tachyonic instability might instead be different. Therefore, we find it interesting to associate to the general modified gravity theory described in the effective field theory framework, a perturbation field which will inherit all of the properties of the theory. In the present paper we address the following questions: (1) how can we define such a field? and (2) what is the mass of such a field as the background approaches a final de Sitter state? We define a gauge-invariant quantity which identifies the density of the dark energy perturbation field valid for any background. We derive the mass associated to the gauge-invariant dark energy field on a de Sitter background, which we retain to be still a good approximation also at very low redshift (z similar or equal to 0). On this background we also investigate the value of the speed of propagation and we find that there exist classes of theories which admit a nonvanishing speed of propagation, even in the Horndeski model, for which a zero speed of sound has previously been found in the literature. We finally apply our results to specific well-known models.

**Keywords**

COSMOLOGY

**Physical Review D**

Volume 96, Issue 2

2017 July