, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 567-599
Date: 11 Aug 2009

Dark energy as a mirage

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Motivated by the observed cosmic matter distribution, we present the following conjecture: due to the formation of voids and opaque structures, the average matter density on the path of the light from the well-observed objects changes from Ω M ≃ 1 in the homogeneous early universe to Ω M ≃ 0 in the clumpy late universe, so that the average expansion rate increases along our line of sight from EdS expansion Ht ≃ 2/3 at high redshifts to free expansion Ht ≃ 1 at low redshifts. To calculate the modified observable distance–redshift relations, we introduce a generalized Dyer–Roeder method that allows for two crucial physical properties of the universe: inhomogeneities in the expansion rate and the growth of the nonlinear structures. By treating the transition redshift to the void-dominated era as a free parameter, we find a phenomenological fit to the observations from the CMB anisotropy, the position of the baryon oscillation peak, the magnitude–redshift relations of type Ia supernovae, the local Hubble flow and the nucleosynthesis, resulting in a concordant model of the universe with 90% dark matter, 10% baryons, no dark energy, 15 Gyr as the age of the universe and a natural value for the transition redshift z 0 = 0.35. Unlike a large local void, the model respects the cosmological principle, further offering an explanation for the late onset of the perceived acceleration as a consequence of the forming nonlinear structures. Additional tests, such as quantitative predictions for angular deviations due to an anisotropic void distribution and a theoretical derivation of the model, can vindicate or falsify the interpretation that light propagation in voids is responsible for the perceived acceleration.