Variation of fundamental constants is a common theme of many theories of quantum gravity and Grand Unification. Using spectra obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope, it has been shown by Berengut et al. (2013), and Bagdonaite et al. (2014), that it is possible to place strong constraints on gravitational variations of the fine structure constant (alpha), and the proton to electron mass ratio (mu) in white dwarf stars.As part of the UV initiative, we propose to observe four hot DA white dwarf stars using STIS with the E140H grating, totalling 12 orbits. These four stars have been chosen so as to have a wide range of masses, allowing a full exploration of the compactness parameter space (M/R). We will measure several absorption features of Fe V and Ni V, and extract any potential variation in alpha in a manner similar to Berengut et al. (2013). This proposal will be a significant advance in the effort to detect gravitational variations in alpha. A confirmed detection of alpha variation would have extensive consequences for fundamental physics, cosmology, and would also signal the breakdown of Einstein's Equivalence principle, and hence, general relativity. Furthermore, a null detection would also allow strong limits to be placed on any potential alpha variation in a strong gravitational field.
- Pub Date:
- June 2016