Illuminating dark energy fluctuations: A study of spatial correlations in dark energy and their effect on the luminosity distance
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The origin of dark energy driving the accelerated expansion of the universe is still mysterious. We explore the possibility that dark energy fluctuates, resulting in spatial correlations. Due to these fluctuations, the Hubble rate itself becomes a fluctuating quantity. We discuss the effect this has on measurements of type Ia supernovae, which are used to constrain the luminosity distance. We show that the luminosity distance is affected by spatial correlations in several ways. First, the luminosity distance becomes dressed by the fluctuations, thereby differing from standard $\Lambda$CDM. Second, angular correlations become visible in the two-point correlation function of the luminosity distance. To investigate the latter we construct the angular power spectrum of luminosity distance fluctuations. We then perform a forecast for two supernova surveys, the ongoing Dark Energy Survey (DES) and the upcoming Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), and compare this effect with relativistic lensing effects from perturbed $\Lambda$CDM. We find that the signal can rise above the lensing effects and that LSST could test this effect for a large part of the parameter space. As an example, a specific realisation of such a scenario is that quantum fluctuations of some field in the early universe imprint spatial correlations with a predictable form in the dark energy density today. In this case, the Hubble rate fluctuates due to the intrinsic quantum nature of the dark energy density field. We study whether the signal of this specific model would be measurable, and conclude that testing this model with LSST would be challenging. However, taking into account a speed of sound $c_s<1$ of the dark energy fluid can make this model observable.