No quantum gravity signature from the farthest quasars
Dipartimento di Astronomia, Università di Padova, vicolo dell’Osservatorio 3, 35122 Padova, Italy
2 Dipartimento di Fisica, University of Ferrara, Italy
3 INAF - Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte, salita Moiariello 16, 80131 Napoli, Italy
4 International Center for Relativistic Astrophysics Network, Pescara, Italy
5 European Southern Observatory, Garching bei München, Germany
Received: 22 September 2010
Accepted: 16 July 2011
Context. Strings and other alternative theories describing the quantum properties of space-time suggest that space-time could present a foamy structure and also that, in certain cases, quantum gravity (QG) may manifest at energies much below the Planck scale. One of the observable effects could be the degradation of the diffraction images of distant sources.
Aims. We searched for this degradation effect, caused by QG fluctuations, in the light of the farthest quasars (QSOs) observed by the Hubble Space Telescope with the aim of setting new limits on the fluctuations of the space-time foam and QG models.
Methods. We developed a software that estimates and compares the phase variation in the interference patterns of the high-redshift QSOs, taken from the snapshot survey of HST-SDSS, with those of stars that are expected to not be affected by QG effects. We used a two-parameter function to determine, for each test star and QSO, the maximum of the diffraction pattern and to calculate the Strehl ratio.
Results. Our results go far beyond those already present in the literature. By adopting the most conservative approach where the correction terms, that describe the possibility for space-time fluctuations cumulating across long distances and partially compensate for the effects of the phase variations, are taken into account. We exclude the random walk model and most of the holographic models of the space-time foam. Without considering these correction terms, all the main QG scenarios are excluded. Finally, our results show the absence of any directional dependence of QG effects and the validity of the cosmological principle with an independent method; that is, viewed on a large scale, the properties of the Universe are the same for all observers, including the effects of space-time fluctuations.
Key words: gravitation / quasars: general / methods: data analysis / methods: statistical / cosmology: theory / elementary particles
© ESO, 2011