Leicester research tests fundamental laws of physics

A study that will ‘test our understanding of how the Universe works, particularly outside the relatively narrow confines of our planet’ is being undertaken by an international team of researchers led by our University.

The research probes whether the fundamental laws of physics are the same everywhere in the universe. In their new study, the Leicester-led team assesses whether these laws are the same within the hot, dense conditions in the atmosphere of a dying white dwarf star as here on Earth. These stars have masses around half that of the Sun compressed into a radius similar to that of the Earth, leading to extreme gravity within the atmosphere of the star.

From our Department of Physics and Astronomy, the study involved Postdoctoral researcher Matthew Bainbridge, Professor Martin Barstow, also of Leicester Institute of Space & Earth Observation, and Dr Nicole Reindl, who lead the observations, along with colleagues from the US, France, The Netherlands, Australia and collaborators in the UK.

Tiny differences in the wavelengths of the light that passes through these heavy metals, compared to experiments here on Earth, gives us clues about potential differences in the fundamental laws of physics under extreme gravity compared to here on Earth.

This work was funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Grant.