Distribution of singularities in the cosmic microwave background polarization

Dragan Huterer, Tanmay Vachaspati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The polarization of the cosmic microwave background radiation will have a distribution of singularities and antisingularities, points where the polarization vanishes for topological reasons. The statistics of polarization singularities provides a nontrivial scheme to analyze the polarization maps that is distinct from the usual two-point correlation functions. Here we characterize the statistics of the singularity distribution in simulated polarization maps, and make predictions that can be compared with ongoing and upcoming observations. We use four different characterizations: the number density of singularities, the nearest-neighbor distance between singularities, the critical exponent ν that describes the scaling of total topological charge q within a closed curve of length L (q Lν), and the angular two-point angular correlation functions for singularities of equal and opposite charge. In general, we find that the number density of singularities is sensitive to the underlying cosmology but the distribution is uniform random except on small scales where singularities of the same charge repel and those of opposite charge attract. These conclusions appear to be extremely robust with respect to variations in the underlying cosmological model and the presence of non-Gaussianity; the only exception we found are cases where statistical isotropy is grossly violated. This suggests that, within the assumption of statistical isotropy, the distribution is a robust feature of the last scattering surface and potentially may be used as a tool to discriminate effects that occur during photon propagation from the last scattering surface to the present epoch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number043004
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalPhysical Review D - Particles, Fields, Gravitation and Cosmology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 15 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


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