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Dynamical dark energy in light of the latest observations


A flat Friedmann–Robertson–Walker universe dominated by a cosmological constant (Λ) and cold dark matter (CDM) has been the working model preferred by cosmologists since the discovery of cosmic acceleration1,2. However, tensions of various degrees of significance are known to be present among existing datasets within the ΛCDM framework3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11. In particular, the Lyman-α forest measurement of the baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO) by the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey3 prefers a smaller value of the matter density fraction Ω M than that preferred by cosmic microwave background (CMB). Also, the recently measured value of the Hubble constant, H 0 = 73.24 ± 1.74 km s−1 Mpc−1 (ref. 12), is 3.4σ higher than the 66.93 ± 0.62 km s−1 Mpc−1 inferred from the Planck CMB data7. In this work, we investigate whether these tensions can be interpreted as evidence for a non-constant dynamical dark energy. Using the Kullback–Leibler divergence13 to quantify the tension between datasets, we find that the tensions are relieved by an evolving dark energy, with the dynamical dark energy model preferred at a 3.5σ significance level based on the improvement in the fit alone. While, at present, the Bayesian evidence for the dynamical dark energy is insufficient to favour it over ΛCDM, we show that, if the current best-fit dark energy happened to be the true model, it would be decisively detected by the upcoming Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument survey14.

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Fig. 1: The tension among different datasets in ΛCDM and w(z)CDM universes.
Fig. 2: Reconstructed evolution history of the dark energy equation of state compared with the 2012 result and the forecasted uncertainty from future data.
Fig. 3: The Bayes factor and the significance level of w ≠ −1 for various correlated priors for current and future data.


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G.-B.Z. is supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) Grant No. 11673025, and by a Royal Society-Newton Advanced Fellowship. G.-B.Z. and Y.W. are supported by National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and by University of Portsmouth. M.R. is supported by US Department of Energy contract DE-FG02-13ER41958. M.R. acknowledges partial support, during the development of this work, by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) through the ASI contracts Euclid-IC (I/031/10/0) and the INFN-INDARK initiative. M.R. thanks Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati, where part of this work was completed. L.P. is supported by The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, R.C. by Science and Technology Facilities Council grant ST/H002774/1, and Y.W. by NSFC Grant No. 11403034. G.R. acknowledges support from the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) through NRF-SGER 2014055950 funded by the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), and from the faculty research fund of Sejong University in 2016. A.S. would like to acknowledge the support of the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF - 2016R1C1B2016478). Funding for SDSS-III has been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Participating Institutions, the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Energy Office of Science. The SDSS-III website is SDSS-III is managed by the Astrophysical Research Consortium for the Participating Institutions of the SDSS-III Collaboration including the University of Arizona, the Brazilian Participation Group, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Florida, the French Participation Group, the German Participation Group, Harvard University, the Instituto de Astrosica de Canarias, the Michigan State/Notre Dame/JINA Participation Group, Johns Hopkins University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, New Mexico State University, New York University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Portsmouth, Princeton University, the Spanish Participation Group, University of Tokyo, University of Utah, Vanderbilt University, University of Virginia, University of Washington and Yale University.

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G.-B.Z. proposed the idea, performed the dark energy reconstruction, evidence calculation, principal-component analysis and tension calculation. M.R. and Y.W. contributed to the tension calculation. G.-B.Z. and L.P. wrote the draft, and all other co-authors commented on and helped to improve the manuscript and/or contributed to the BOSS data analysis.

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Correspondence to Gong-Bo Zhao.

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Supplementary Tables 1–3, Supplementary Figures 1–5 and Supplementary References

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Zhao, GB., Raveri, M., Pogosian, L. et al. Dynamical dark energy in light of the latest observations. Nat Astron 1, 627–632 (2017).

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