Tolman surface brightness test
The Tolman surface brightness test is one out of a half-dozen cosmological tests that was conceived in the 1930s to check the viability of and compare new cosmological models. Tolman's test compares the surface brightness of galaxies as a function of their redshift (measured as z). Such a comparison was first proposed in 1930 by Richard C. Tolman as a test of whether the universe is expanding or static.
In a simple (static and flat) universe, the light received from an object drops proportional to the square of its distance and the apparent area of the object also drops proportional to the square of the distance, so the surface brightness (light received per surface area) would be constant, independent of the distance. In an expanding universe, however, there are two effects that change this relation. First, the rate at which photons are received is reduced because each photon has to travel a little farther than the one before. Second, the energy of each photon observed is reduced by the redshift. At the same time, distant objects appear larger than they really are because the photons observed were emitted at a time when the object was closer. Adding these effects together, the surface brightness in a simple expanding universe (flat geometry and uniform expansion over the range of redshifts observed) should decrease with the fourth power of (1+z).
To date, the best investigation of the relationship between surface brightness and redshift was carried out using the 10m Keck telescope to measure nearly a thousand galaxies' redshifts and the 2.4m Hubble Space Telescope to measure those galaxies' surface brightness. The exponent found is not 4 as expected in the simplest expanding model, but 2.6 or 3.4, depending on the frequency band. The authors summarize:
- We show that this is precisely the range expected from the evolutionary models of Bruzual & Charlot. We conclude that the Tolman surface brightness test is consistent with the reality of the expansion.
- Allan Sandage and Lori M. Lubin, 2271-88; Lori M. Lubin and Allan Sandage, "The Tolman Surface Brightness Test for the Reality of the Expansion. II. The Effect of the Point-Spread Function and Galaxy Ellipticity on the Derived Photometric Parameters," Astronomical Journal 121 (2001): 2289-300; Lori M. Lubin and Allan Sandage, "The Tolman Surface Brightness Test for the Reality of the Expansion. III. Hubble Space Telescope Profile and Surface Brightness Data for Early-Type Galaxies in Three High-Redshift Clusters," Astronomical Journal 122 (2001): 1071-83; Lori M. Lubin and Allan Sandage, "The Tolman Surface Brightness Test for the Reality of the Expansion. IV. A Measurement of the Tolman Signal and the Luminosity Evolution of Early-Type Galaxies," Astronomical Journal, 122 (2001): 1084-1103.