Search for Time Variation of the Fine Structure Constant

John K. Webb, Victor V. Flambaum, Christopher W. Churchill, Michael J. Drinkwater, and John D. Barrow
Phys. Rev. Lett. 82, 884 – Published 1 February 1999
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An order of magnitude sensitivity gain is described for using quasar spectra to investigate possible time or space variation in the fine structure constant α. Applied to a sample of 30 absorption systems, spanning redshifts 0.5<z<1.6, we derive limits on variations in α over a wide range of epochs. For the whole sample, Δα/α=(1.1±0.4)×105. This deviation is dominated by measurements at z>1, where Δα/α=(1.9±0.5)×105. For z<1, Δα/α=(0.2±0.4)×105. While this is consistent with a time-varying α, further work is required to explore possible systematic errors in the data, although careful searches have so far revealed none.

  • Received 13 February 1998


©1999 American Physical Society

Authors & Affiliations

John K. Webb1, Victor V. Flambaum1, Christopher W. Churchill2, Michael J. Drinkwater1, and John D. Barrow3

  • 1School of Physics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia
  • 2Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802
  • 3Astronomy Centre, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9QJ, United Kingdom

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Vol. 82, Iss. 5 — 1 February 1999

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