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Cosmological constraints from the Hubble diagram of quasars at high redshifts


The concordance model (Λ cold dark matter (ΛCDM) model, where Λ is the cosmological constant) reproduces the main current cosmological observations1,2,3,4 assuming the validity of general relativity at all scales and epochs and the presence of CDM and of Λ, equivalent to dark energy with a constant density in space and time. However, the ΛCDM model is poorly tested in the redshift interval between the farthest observed type Ia supernovae5 and the cosmic microwave background. We present measurements of the expansion rate of the Universe based on a Hubble diagram of quasars. Quasars are the most luminous persistent sources in the Universe, observed up to redshifts of z ≈ 7.5 (refs. 6,7). We estimate their distances following a method developed by our group8,9,10, based on the X-ray and ultraviolet emission of the quasars. The distance modulus/redshift relation of quasars at z < 1.4 is in agreement with that of supernovae and with the concordance model. However, a deviation from the ΛCDM model emerges at higher redshift, with a statistical significance of ~4σ. If an evolution of the dark energy equation of state is allowed, the data suggest dark energy density increasing with time.

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We are grateful to our collaborators S. Bisogni, M. Elvis, R. Gilli, E. Nardini, M. Salvati, F. Salvestrini and C. Vignali for discussions and comments on the main topics of this work. G.R. acknowledges the support of grant ASI-INAF no. 2017–14-H.0. E.L. is supported by a European Union COFUND/Durham Junior Research Fellowship (under EU grant agreement no. 609412). This work has made use of data from the SDSS, SDSS-II and SDSS-III surveys, of the 3XMM Source Catalog and of XMM-Newton and Chandra observations. Funding for the SDSS and SDSS-II has been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Participating Institutions, the National Science Foundation, the United States Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Japanese Monbukagakusho, the Max Planck Society and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The SDSS website is http://www.sdss.org/. The SDSS is managed by the Astrophysical Research Consortium for the Participating Institutions. The Participating Institutions are the American Museum of Natural History, Astrophysical Institute Potsdam, University of Basel, University of Cambridge, Case Western Reserve University, University of Chicago, Drexel University, Fermilab, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Japan Participation Group, Johns Hopkins University, the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics, the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, the Korean Scientist Group, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (LAMOST), Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA), the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA), New Mexico State University, Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh, University of Portsmouth, Princeton University, the United States Naval Observatory and the University of Washington. 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 http://www.sdss3.org/. 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 Astrofisica de Canarias, the Michigan State/Notre Dame/JINA Participation Group, Johns Hopkins University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, the 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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Both authors contributed equally to the scientific content and the writing of this paper.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to G. Risaliti.

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Supplementary Text, Supplementary Figures 1–17, Supplementary References 1–38

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Fig. 1: Relation between the UV and X-ray monochromatic luminosities of quasars.
Fig. 2: Hubble diagram of type Ia supernovae and quasars.
Fig. 3: Test of the ΛCDM model through a cosmographic expansion.
Fig. 4: Error contours for an evolving dark energy model.