Journal Article

Keck telescope constraint on cosmological variation of the proton-to-electron mass ratio

A. L. Malec, R. Buning, M. T. Murphy, N. Milutinovic, S. L. Ellison, J. X. Prochaska, L. Kaper, J. Tumlinson, R. F. Carswell and W. Ubachs

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 403, issue 3, pages 1541-1555
Published in print April 2010 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online April 2010 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2009.16227.x
Keck telescope constraint on cosmological variation of the proton-to-electron mass ratio

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Molecular transitions recently discovered at redshift zabs= 2.059 towards the bright background quasar J2123−0050 are analysed to limit cosmological variation in the proton-to-electron mass ratio, μ≡mp/me. Observed with the Keck telescope, the optical echelle spectrum has the highest resolving power and largest number (86) of H2 transitions in such analyses so far. Also, (seven) HD transitions are used for the first time to constrain μ-variation. These factors, and an analysis employing the fewest possible free parameters, strongly constrain μ's relative deviation from the current laboratory value: Δμ/μ= (+5.6 ± 5.5stat± 2.9sys) × 10−6, indicating an insignificantly larger μ in the absorber. This is the first Keck result to complement recent null constraints from three systems at zabs > 2.5 observed with the Very Large Telescope. The main possible systematic errors stem from wavelength calibration uncertainties. In particular, distortions in the wavelength solution on echelle order scales are estimated to contribute approximately half the total systematic error component, but our estimate is model dependent and may therefore under or overestimate the real effect, if present.

To assist future μ-variation analyses of this kind, and other astrophysical studies of H2 in general, we provide a compilation of the most precise laboratory wavelengths and calculated parameters important for absorption-line work with H2 transitions redwards of the hydrogen Lyman limit.

Keywords: atomic data; line: profiles; methods: data analysis; techniques: spectroscopic; quasars: absorption lines

Journal Article.  13489 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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