Growth of cosmic structure: probing dark energy beyond expansion

Dragan Huterer*, David Kirkby, Rachel Bean, Andrew Connolly, Kyle Dawson, Scott Dodelson, August Evrard, Bhuvnesh Jain, Michael Jarvis, Eric Linder, Rachel Mandelbaum, Morgan May, Alvise Raccanelli, Beth Reid, Eduardo Rozo, Fabian Schmidt, Neelima Sehgal, Anže Slosar, Alex Van Engelen, Hao Yi WuGongbo Zhao

*Corresponding author for this work

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The quantity and quality of cosmic structure observations have greatly accelerated in recent years, and further leaps forward will be facilitated by imminent projects. These will enable us to map the evolution of dark and baryonic matter density fluctuations over cosmic history. The way that these fluctuations vary over space and time is sensitive to several pieces of fundamental physics: the primordial perturbations generated by GUT-scale physics; neutrino masses and interactions; the nature of dark matter and dark energy. We focus on the last of these here: the ways that combining probes of growth with those of the cosmic expansion such as distance-redshift relations will pin down the mechanism driving the acceleration of the Universe. One way to explain the acceleration of the Universe is invoke dark energy parameterized by an equation of state w. Distance measurements provide one set of constraints on w, but dark energy also affects how rapidly structure grows; the greater the acceleration, the more suppressed the growth of structure. Upcoming surveys are therefore designed to probe w with direct observations of the distance scale and the growth of structure, each complementing the other on systematic errors and constraints on dark energy. A consistent set of results will greatly increase the reliability of the final answer. Another possibility is that there is no dark energy, but that General Relativity does not describe the laws of physics accurately on large scales. While the properties of gravity have been measured with exquisite precision at stellar system scales and densities, within our solar system and by binary pulsar systems, its properties in different environments are poorly constrained. To fully understand if General Relativity is the complete theory of gravity we must test gravity across a spectrum of scales and densities. Rapid developments in gravitational wave astronomy and numerical relativity are directed at testing gravity in the high curvature, high density regime. Cosmological evolution provides a polar opposite test bed, probing how gravity behaves in the lowest curvature, low density environments. There are a number of different implementations of astrophysically relevant modifications of gravity. Generically, the models are able to reproduce the distance measurements while at the same time altering the growth of structure. In particular, as detailed below, the Poisson equation relating over-densities to gravitational potentials is altered, and the potential that determines the geodesics of relativistic particles (such as photons) differs from the potential that determines the motion of non-relativistic particles. Upcoming surveys will exploit these differences to determine whether the acceleration of the Universe is due to dark energy or to modified gravity. To realize this potential, both wide field imaging and spectroscopic redshift surveys play crucial roles. Projects including DES, eBOSS, DESI, PFS, LSST, Euclid, and WFIRST are in line to map more than a 1000 cubic-billion-light-year volume of the Universe. These will map the cosmic structure growth rate to 1% in the redshift range 0<z<2, over the last 3/4 of the age of the Universe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-41
Number of pages19
JournalAstroparticle Physics
Early online date11 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2015


  • Cosmology
  • Dark energy
  • Large-scale structure


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