The European Southern Observatory (ESO) reports that scientists may be able to obtain evidence of unusual properties of the vacuum, which was predicted 80 years ago.

Normally, the vacuum does not manifest itself, and the light propagates through it unchanged. But according to quantum electrodynamics (QED), which describes the interaction between photons and charged particles, such as electrons, the vacuum is filled with constantly appearing and disappearing virtual particles. Very strong magnetic fields can modify the properties of space and polarize the light passing through it.

in the theory of strongly magnetized vacuum with respect to the passing light through it can behave like a prism. This effect is called birefringence in vacuo. Alas, register this phenomenon has not yet been able to practice, because his observations must be extremely strong magnetic field.

Just such a field exists around a neutron star RX J1856.5-3754, overseen by scientists. This facility is located about 400 light years from Earth.

To study the RX J1856.5-3754 used the Very Large Telescope ESO (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. The researchers found a significant – at about 16% – linear polarization, which they interpreted as a consequence of the effect of the vacuum birefringence in the space surrounding the star


we measured on the VLT high linear polarization is not easy to explain with the help of the existing models, without drawing QED prediction of birefringence in a vacuum ” – scientists say. It seems that this is the first observational confirmation of the predictions of QED effects in extremely strong magnetic fields.