A cornerstone of Einstein’s special relativity is Lorentz invariance—the postulate that all observers measure exactly the same speed of light in vacuum, independent of photon-energy. While special relativity assumes that there is no fundamental length-scale associated with such invariance, there is a fundamental scale (the Planck scale, lPlanck~1.62×10-33cm or EPlanck = MPlanckc2~1.22×1019GeV), at which quantum effects are expected to strongly affect the nature of space-time. There is great interest in the (not yet validated) idea that Lorentz invariance might break near the Planck scale. A key test of such violation of Lorentz invariance is a possible variation of photon speed with energy. Even a tiny variation in photon speed, when accumulated over cosmological light-travel times, may be revealed by observing sharp features in γ-ray burst (GRB) light-curves. Here we report the detection of emission up to ~31GeV from the distant and short GRB090510. We find no evidence for the violation of Lorentz invariance, and place a lower limit of 1.2EPlanck on the scale of a linear energy dependence (or an inverse wavelength dependence), subject to reasonable assumptions about the emission (equivalently we have an upper limit of lPlanck/1.2 on the length scale of the effect). Our results disfavour quantum-gravity theories in which the quantum nature of space-time on a very small scale linearly alters the speed of light.
- Pub Date:
- November 2009
- Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena
- Supplementary Material is available at http://gammaray.nsstc.nasa.gov/gbm/grb/GRB090510/supporting_material.pdf -- Corresponding authors: J. Granot (firstname.lastname@example.org), S. Guiriec (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org), M. Ohno (email@example.com) and V. Pelassa (firstname.lastname@example.org)