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Title: Constraining the variation of the fine-structure constant with observations of narrow quasar absorption lines

The unequivocal demonstration of temporal or spatial variability in a fundamental constant of nature would be of enormous significance. Recent attempts to measure the variability of the fine-structure constant α over cosmological time, using high-resolution spectra of high-redshift quasars observed with 10 m class telescopes, have produced conflicting results. We use the many multiplet (MM) method with Mg II and Fe II lines on very high signal-to-noise, high-resolution (R = 72, 000) Keck HIRES spectra of eight narrow quasar absorption systems. We consider both systematic uncertainties in spectrograph wavelength calibration and also velocity offsets introduced by complex velocity structure in even apparently simple and weak narrow lines and analyze their effect on claimed variations in α. We find no significant change in α, Δα/α = (0.43 ± 0.34) × 10{sup –5}, in the redshift range z = 0.7-1.5, where this includes both statistical and systematic errors. We also show that the scatter in measurements of Δα/α arising from absorption line structure can be considerably larger than assigned statistical errors even for apparently simple and narrow absorption systems. We find a null result of Δα/α = (– 0.59 ± 0.55) × 10{sup –5} in a system at z = 1.7382 usingmore » lines of Cr II, Zn II, and Mn II, whereas using Cr II and Zn II lines in a system at z = 1.6614 we find a systematic velocity trend that, if interpreted as a shift in α, would correspond to Δα/α = (1.88 ± 0.47) × 10{sup –5}, where both results include both statistical and systematic errors. This latter result is almost certainly caused by varying ionic abundances in subcomponents of the line: using Mn II, Ni II, and Cr II in the analysis changes the result to Δα/α = (– 0.47 ± 0.53) × 10{sup –5}. Combining the Mg II and Fe II results with estimates based on Mn II, Ni II, and Cr II gives Δα/α = (– 0.01 ± 0.26) × 10{sup –5}. We conclude that spectroscopic measurements of quasar absorption lines are not yet capable of unambiguously detecting variation in α using the MM method.« less
Authors:
;  [1]
  1. Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii, 2680 Woodlawn Drive, Honolulu, HI 96822 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22370557
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal; Journal Volume: 793; Journal Issue: 2; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; ABSORPTION; CALIBRATION; FINE STRUCTURE; FUNDAMENTAL CONSTANTS; NOISE; QUASARS; RED SHIFT; RESOLUTION; SPECTRA; TELESCOPES; VELOCITY; WAVELENGTHS