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Physical Review D - Particles, Fields, Gravitation and Cosmology




Searches for dispersive effects in the propagation of light at cosmological distances have been touted as sensitive probes of Lorentz invariance violation (LIV) and of theories of quantum gravity. Frequency-dependent time lags between simultaneously emitted pulses of light can signal a modification in the photon dispersion relation; however, matter engenders the cosmos with a dispersive index of refraction to similar effect. We construct a theoretical framework for the analysis of such effects, contrasting these dispersive terms with those from LIV models. We consider all matter, both luminous and dark. Though the only known mode of interaction for dark matter (DM) is gravitational, most models of dark matter also allow for electromagnetic interactions, if only at the one-loop level in perturbation theory. Generically, the leading order dispersive effects due to matter scale with photon energy as ω−2 for a charged DM candidate and ω2 for a neutral DM candidate. Terms linear in ω can arise in the index of refraction if parity and charge-parity asymmetries are present at the Lagrangian or system level. Herein, we compute the index of refraction for a millicharged dark matter candidate at the one-loop level, a neutral scalar DM candidate introduced by Boehm and Fayet [Nucl. Phys. B 683, 219 (2004)], and the minimal supersymmetric standard model’s neutralino. For a neutral DM candidate, we determine that matter effects can compete with LIV effects that depend quadratically on energy whenever the photon energy is beyond 1029  GeV, well beyond the Greisen-Zatsepin-Kuzmin cutoff. The dispersive matter effects that scale linearly with ω are model dependent, and their existence results in circular birefringence.