The light of the pulsar helped scientists to prove that the vacuum is not empty

Свет пульсара помог ученым доказать, что вакуум не является пустым

Unusual polarization of light of a pulsar in the constellation of the southern Crown pointed to the fact that the vacuum is not empty space from the point of view of quantum physics and what it is filled is constantly being born and disappearing virtual particles and antiparticles, according to a paper published in the journal MNRAS.

“In accordance with the theory of quantum electrodynamics, the vacuum in a strong magnetic field behaves like a prism, splitting the light into two components. This effect is called “double refraction of the vacuum.” The high linear polarization of light of pulsars, which we measured, it is impossible to explain any other way, if we do not consider the existence of this effect,” said Roberto Mignani (Roberto Mignani) from the Institute of astrophysics in Milan (Italy).

Today, scientists believe that the vacuum, contrary to our everyday perceptions, is not the incarnation of the absolute void and useless. He represents, in accordance with the laws of quantum physics, worried about “the sea” of an infinite number of constantly born and self-destructing pairs of virtual particles and antiparticles. Their interaction, according to physicists, has special influence on the behavior of atoms and light.

For example, it is the quantum “sea” has a special influence on the polarization of light in the presence of strong magnetic fields, causing it to split and polarized in the same way as the light leads into itself, in some natural crystals, causing it to disintegrate into two beams. The existence of a similar effect, scientists say, from 30 years of the last century, but they failed to fix it until the present time.

Mignani and his colleagues were first able to see how the vacuum causes the light to split into two halves, watching the pulsar RX J1856.5-3754 in the constellation of the southern Crown with VLT telescope, installed in high mountain Observatory, Paranal in Chile.

Pulsars and neutron stars represent ultra-dense concentrations of matter, arising from the remains of larger bodies that have exhausted their stocks of stellar fuel. They are sources of heavy-duty magnetic fields millions of times more powerful than the subsoil and in the vicinity of the Sun, making them ideal “laboratories” for studying the quantum properties of the vacuum.

Pulsar RX J1856.5-3754 is located only 400 light years from Earth and has a relatively “quiet” demeanour – he almost does not radiate radio waves and it is not surrounded by supernova remnants, “fonyaschih” in all ranges of radiation. This has enabled European astronomers to see it with an optical telescope to measure the polarization of its light.

As it turned out, the light of this neutron star was linearly polarized to 11-21%, which, according to astrophysicists, it would not be possible if the vacuum in the vicinity of the pulsar did not have the “svetorasseivayuschim” properties, predicted by the theory of quantum electrodynamics.

Further observation of this effect, as scientists hope, will help you to use it to study the “atmospheric” neutron stars and study the mysteries of the structure of their bowels, consisting of exotic forms of matter.