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Confirmation of general relativity on large scales from weak lensing and galaxy velocities


Although general relativity underlies modern cosmology, its applicability on cosmological length scales has yet to be stringently tested. Such a test has recently been proposed1, using a quantity, EG, that combines measures of large-scale gravitational lensing, galaxy clustering and structure growth rate. The combination is insensitive to ‘galaxy bias’ (the difference between the clustering of visible galaxies and invisible dark matter) and is thus robust to the uncertainty in this parameter. Modified theories of gravity generally predict values of EG different from the general relativistic prediction because, in these theories, the ‘gravitational slip’ (the difference between the two potentials that describe perturbations in the gravitational metric) is non-zero, which leads to changes in the growth of structure2 and the strength of the gravitational lensing effect3. Here we report that EG = 0.39 ± 0.06 on length scales of tens of megaparsecs, in agreement with the general relativistic prediction of EG ≈ 0.4. The measured value excludes a model1 within the tensor–vector–scalar gravity theory4,5, which modifies both Newtonian and Einstein gravity. However, the relatively large uncertainty still permits models within f() theory6, which is an extension of general relativity. A fivefold decrease in uncertainty is needed to rule out these models.

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Figure 1: Probes of large-scale structure measured from 70,000 LRGs.
Figure 2: Comparison of observational constraints with predictions from general relativity and viable modified theories of gravity.


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R.M. was supported for the duration of this work by NASA through a Hubble Fellowship grant awarded by the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., for NASA. U.S. acknowledges the Swiss National Foundation. T.B. acknowledges support by a grant from the German National Academic Foundation during the initial phase of this project.

Author Contributions R.R., R.M., U.S. and J.E.G. worked on the observational analysis, with R.R. doing most of the computations. T.B. and R.E.S. worked on the numerical simulations, with T.B. calculating the correction factors. L.L. worked on the theoretical predictions for comparison with the observations.

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Correspondence to Reinabelle Reyes.

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Reyes, R., Mandelbaum, R., Seljak, U. et al. Confirmation of general relativity on large scales from weak lensing and galaxy velocities. Nature 464, 256–258 (2010).

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