Does the Fine Structure Constant Vary? A Third Quasar Absorption Sample Consistent with Varying α

  • John K. Webb
  • Michael T. Murphy
  • Victor V. Flambaum
  • Stephen J. Curran


We report results from a third sample of quasar absorption line spectra from the Keck telescope which has been studied to search for any possible variation of the fine structure constant, α. This third sample, which is larger than the sum of the two previously published samples, shows the same effect, and also gives, as do the previous two samples, a significant result. The combined sample yields a highly significant effect, Δα / α = (α z α 0) / α 0 = −0.57 ± 0.10 × 10−5, averaged over the redshift range 0.2 < z < 3.7. We include a brief discussion of small-scale kinematic structure in quasar absorbing clouds. However, kinematics are unlikely to impact significantly on the averaged non-zero Δ α / α above, and we have so far been unable to identify any systematic effect which can explain it. New measurements of quasar spectra obtained using independent instrumentation and telescopes are required to properly check the Keck results.


Column Density Fine Structure Constant Kinematic Effect Wavelength Calibration Redshift Range 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • John K. Webb
    • 1
  • Michael T. Murphy
    • 1
  • Victor V. Flambaum
    • 1
  • Stephen J. Curran
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PhysicsUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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