Context: There are currently no reliable methods to measure the transverse velocities of galaxies. This is an important piece of information that is lacking in galaxy catalogues, and it could allow us to probe the physics of structure formation and to test the underlying theory of gravity. The slingshot effect (a special case of the integrated Sachs–Wolfe effect) is expected to create dipole signals in the temperature fluctuations of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation. This effect creates a hot spot behind and a cold spot in front of moving massive objects. The dipole signal created by the slingshot effect can be used to measure transverse velocities, but because the signal is expected to be weak, the effect has not been measured yet.
Aims: Our aim is to show that the slingshot effect can be measured by stacking the signals of galaxies falling into a collapsing cluster. Furthermore, we evaluate whether the effect can probe modified gravity.
Methods: We used data from a simulated galaxy catalogue (MultiDark Planck 2) to mimic observations. We identified a 1015 M⊙ cluster, and made maps of the slingshot effect for photons passing near 8438 infalling galaxies. To emulate instrument noise, we added uncorrelated Gaussian noise to each map. We assumed that the average velocity is directed towards the centre of the cluster. The maps were rotated according to the expected direction of motion. This assures that the dipole signal adds up constructively when stacking the maps. We compared the stacked maps to a dipole stencil to determine the quality of the signal. We also evaluated the probability of fitting the stencil in the absence of the slingshot signal.
Results: Each galaxy gives a signal of around ΔT/T ≈ 10−9, while the current precision of CMB experiments is ΔT/T ≈ 4 × 10−6. By stacking around 10 000 galaxies and performing a stencil fit, the slingshot signal can be over the detectable threshold with today’s experiments. However, due to the difficulty of distinguishing an actual signal from false positives, future CMB experiments must be used to be certain of the strength of the observed signal.