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Fundamental physics with ESPRESSO: Constraining a simple parametrisation for varying α

V. da Fonseca, T. Barreiro, N. J. Nunes, S. Cristiani, G. Cupani, V. D'Odorico, A. C. O. Leite, C. M. J. Marques, C. J. A. P. Martins, D. Milaković, P. Molaro, M. T. Murphy, T. M. Schmidt, M. Abreu, V. Zh. Adibekyan, A. Cabral, P. Di Marcantonio, J. I. González Hernández, E. Palle, F. Pepe, R. Rebolo López, N. C. Santos, S. G. Sousa, A. Sozzetti, A. Suárez Mascareño, M. R. Zapatero Osorio

Context. The spectrograph ESPRESSO recently obtained a limit on the variation of the fine-structure constant, α, through measurements along the line of sight of a bright quasar with a precision of 1.36 ppm at 1σ level. This imposes new constraints on cosmological models with a varying α. We assume such a model where the electromagnetic sector is coupled to a scalar field dark energy responsible for the current acceleration of the Universe. We parametrise the variation of α with two extra parameters, one defining the cosmological evolution of the quintessence component and the other fixing the coupling with the electromagnetic field.
Aims. The objective of this work is to constrain these parameters with both astrophysical and local probes. We also carried out a comparative analysis of how each data probe may constrain our parametrisation.
Methods. We performed a Bayesian analysis by comparing the predictions of the model with observations. The astrophysical datasets are composed of quasar spectra measurements, including the latest ESPRESSO data point, as well as Planck observations of the cosmic microwave background. We combined these with local results from atomic clocks and the MICROSCOPE experiment.
Results. The constraints placed on the quintessence parameter are consistent with a null variation of the field, and are therefore compatible with a ΛCDM cosmology. The constraints on the coupling to the electromagnetic sector are dominated by the Eötvös parameter local bound.
Conclusions. More precise measurements with ESPRESSO will be extremely important to study the cosmological evolution of α as it probes an interval of redshift not accessible to other types of observations. However, for this particular model, current available data favour a null variation of α resulting mostly from the strong MICROSCOPE limits.

dark energy

Astronomy & Astrophysics
Volume 666, Article Number A57, Number of pages 9
2022 October

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