A limit on the variation of the speed of light arising from quantum gravity effects

A. A. Abdo, M. Ackermann, M. Ajello, K. Asano, W. B. Atwood, M. Axelsson, L. Baldini, J. Ballet, G. Barbiellini, M. G. Baring, D. Bastieri, K. Bechto, R. Bellazzini, B. Berenji, P. N. Bhat, E. Bissaldi, E. D. Bloom, E. Bonamente, J. Bonnell, A. W. BorglandA. Bouvier, J. Bregeon, A. Brez, M. S. Briggs, M. Brigida, P. Bruel, J. M. Burgess, T. H. Burnett, G. A. Caliandro, R. A. Cameron, P. A. Caraveo, J. M. Casandjian, C. Cecchi, Ö Çelik, V. Chaplin, E. Charles, C. C. Cheung, J. Chiang, S. Ciprini, R. Claus, J. Cohen-Tanugi, L. R. Cominsky, V. Connaughton, J. Conrad, S. Cutini, C. D. Dermer, A. De Angelis, F. De Palma, S. W. Dige, B. L. Dingus, E. Do Couto E Silva, P. S. Drell, R. Dubois, D. Dumora, C. Farnier, C. Favuzzi, S. J. Fegan, J. Finke, G. Fishman, W. B. Focke, L. Foschini, Y. Fukazawa, S. Funk, P. Fusco, F. Gargano, D. Gasparrini, N. Gehrels, S. Germani, L. Gibby, B. Giebels, N. Giglietto, F. Giordano, T. Glanzman, G. Godfrey, J. Granot, J. Greiner, I. A. Grenier, M. H. Grondin, J. E. Grove, D. Grupe, L. Guillemot, S. Guiriec, Y. Hanabata, A. K. Harding, M. Hayashida, E. Hays, E. A. Hoversten, R. E. Hughes, G. Jóhannesson, A. S. Johnson, R. P. Johnson, W. N. Johnson, T. Kamae, H. Katagiri, J. Kataoka, N. Kawai, M. Kerr, R. M. Kippen, J. Knödlseder, D. Kocevski, C. Kouveliotou, F. Kuehn, M. Kuss, J. Lande, L. Latronico, M. Lemoine-Goumard, F. Longo, F. Loparco, B. Lott, M. N. Lovellette, P. Lubrano, G. M. Madejski, A. Makeev, M. N. Mazziotta, S. McBreen, J. E. McEnery, S. McGlynn, P. Mészáros, C. Meurer, P. F. Michelson, W. Mitthumsiri, T. Mizuno, A. A. Moiseev, C. Monte, M. E. Monzani, E. Moretti, A. Morselli, I. V. Moskalenko, S. Murgia, T. Nakamori, P. L. Nolan, J. P. Norris, E. Nuss, M. Ohno, T. Ohsugi, N. Omodei, E. Orlando, J. F. Ormes, M. Ozaki, W. S. Paciesas, D. Paneque, J. H. Panetta, D. Parent, V. Pelassa, M. Pepe, M. Pesce-Rollins, V. Petrosian, F. Piron, T. A. Porter, R. Preece, S. Rainò, E. Ramirez-Ruiz, R. Rando, M. Razzano, S. Razzaque, A. Reimer, O. Reimer, T. Reposeur, S. Ritz, L. S. Rochester, A. Y. Rodriguez, M. Roth, F. Ryde, H. F.W. Sadrozinski, D. Sanchez, A. Sander, P. M. SazParkinson, J. D. Scargle, T. L. Schalk, C. Sgrò, E. J. Siskind, D. A. Smith, P. D. Smith, G. Spandre, P. Spinelli, M. Stamatikos, F. W. Stecker, M. S. Strickman, D. J. Suson, H. Tajima, H. Takahashi, T. Takahashi, T. Tanaka, J. B. Thayer, J. G. Thayer, D. J. Thompson, L. Tibaldo, K. Toma, D. F. Torres, G. Tosti, E. Troja, Y. Uchiyama, T. Uehara, T. L. Usher, A. J. Van Der Horst, V. Vasileiou, N. Vilchez, V. Vitale, A. VonKienlin, A. P. Waite, P. Wang, C. Wilson-Hodge, B. L. Winer, K. S. Wood, X. F. Wu, R. Yamazaki, T. Ylinen, M. Ziegler

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Abstract

A cornerstone of Einsteinĝ€™s special relativity is Lorentz invarianceĝ€"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, l(Planck)1.62×10-33cm or E(Planck) ≤ M(Planck)c 21.22×1019GeV), at which quantum effects are expected to strongly affect the nature of spaceĝ€"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-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 1.2E(Planck) 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 l(Planck)/1.2 on the length scale of the effect). Our results disfavour quantum-gravity theories in which the quantum nature of spaceĝ€"time on a very small scale linearly alters the speed of light.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-334
Number of pages4
JournalNature
Volume462
Issue number7271
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Nov 19

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Abdo, A. A., Ackermann, M., Ajello, M., Asano, K., Atwood, W. B., Axelsson, M., Baldini, L., Ballet, J., Barbiellini, G., Baring, M. G., Bastieri, D., Bechto, K., Bellazzini, R., Berenji, B., Bhat, P. N., Bissaldi, E., Bloom, E. D., Bonamente, E., Bonnell, J., ... Ziegler, M. (2009). A limit on the variation of the speed of light arising from quantum gravity effects. Nature, 462(7271), 331-334. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature08574