Vol 19, No 2 (2019) / Chen

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Astrophysical constraints on the proton-to-electron mass ratio with FAST

Xi Chen, Simon P. Ellingsen, Ying Mei

Abstract

That the laws of physics are the same at all times and places throughout the Universe is one of the basic assumptions of physics. Astronomical observations provide the only means to test this basic assumption on cosmological time and distance scales. The possibility of variations in the dimensionless physical constant μ - the proton-to-electron mass ratio, can be tested by comparing astronomical measurements of the rest frequency of certain spectral lines at radio wavelengths with laboratory determinations. Different types of molecular transitions have different dependencies on μ and so observations of two or more spectral lines towards the same astronomical source can be used to test whether there is any evidence for either temporal or spatial changes in the physical fundamental constants. μ will change if the relative strength of the strong nuclear force compared to the electromagnetic force varies. Theoretical studies have shown that the rotational transitions of some molecules which have transitions in the frequency range that will be covered by FAST (e.g., CH 3 OH, OH and CH) are sensitive to changes in μ. A number of studies looking for possible variations in μ have been undertaken with existing telescopes, however, the greater sensitivity of FAST means it will open new opportunities to significantly improve upon measurements made to date. In this paper, we discuss which molecular transitions and sources (both in the Galaxy and external galaxies) are likely targets for providing improved constraints on μ with FAST.

Keywords


ISM: molecules — radio lines: ISM — techniques: radial velocities — elementary particles

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1088/1674–4527/19/2/18

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