DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stad2322 ISSN: 0035-8711

Testing the cosmological principle with CatWISE quasars: a bayesian analysis of the number-count dipole

Lawrence Dam, Geraint F Lewis, Brendon J Brewer
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics


The Cosmological Principle, that the Universe is homogeneous and isotropic on sufficiently large scales, underpins the standard model of cosmology. However, a recent analysis of 1.36 million infrared-selected quasars has identified a significant tension in the amplitude of the number-count dipole compared to that derived from the cosmic microwave background (CMB), thus challenging the Cosmological Principle. Here, we present a Bayesian analysis of the same quasar sample, testing various hypotheses using the Bayesian evidence. We find unambiguous evidence for the presence of a dipole in the distribution of quasars with a direction that is consistent with the dipole identified in the CMB. However, the amplitude of the dipole is found to be 2.7 times larger than that expected from the conventional kinematic explanation of the CMB dipole, with a statistical significance of 5.7σ. To compare these results with theoretical expectations, we sharpen the ΛCDM predictions for the probability distribution of the amplitude, taking into account a number of observational and theoretical systematics. In particular, we show that the presence of the Galactic plane mask causes a considerable loss of dipole signal due to a leakage of power into higher multipoles, exacerbating the discrepancy in the amplitude. By contrast, we show using probabilistic arguments that the source evolution of quasars improves the discrepancy, but only mildly so. These results support the original findings of an anomalously large quasar dipole, independent of the statistical methodology used.

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