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The Curious Case of the Quasar and redshift

It wasn’t until the 1920’s that the notion of galaxies outside of our own was conceived. The main person behind this was Edwin Hubble. He designed a Tuning Fork classification system around the belief that galaxies are stable and symmetrical, and able to be classified as a handful of different species. In 1963 Alan Sandage and Thomas Matthews were able to combine both optical and radio astronomy to identify unusual objects which exhibited Redshifts significantly higher than other objects. They named these objects Quasi-Stellar objects, later shortened to Quasars. The problem with these quasars was that there extreme Redshift implied the objects were traveling at great speed away from us and therefore, according to the expanding Universe theory these objects had to be very remote. The second problem was that their viewed brightness combined with this remoteness implied that these objects must be impossibly bright.  Quasars are also not static, and since we started observing them some have expanded. The expansion rate at this remoteness would mean that they would be expanding at a rate of about 10 times the speed of light!

It was Halton Arp, the award-winning astronomer and protege of Edwin Hubble, who took a deep interest in these mysterious objects. He observered thousands and thousands of these objects and built up a picture which questioned the Big Bang theory his mentor had helped underpin. For this he was barred from using any telescope time and publicly attacked by his fellow scientists. He moved to the Planck Institute in Germany to continue his research. So let’s examine some of the evidence he discovered surrounding Quasars.

  1. Clustering of Quasars
  2. Quantisation of Quasars
  3. Proximity to nearby galaxies and radial alignment
  4. Physical connection
  5. Quasars located in front of galaxies with low redshift
  6. Luminosity of Quasars
  7. Redshift survey of local galaxies
  8. Physical movement of Quasars



1. Clustering of quasars

There are many examples of quasars being discovered in groups with similar redshift. One extreme example, which Halton Arp discussed in one of his papers (Fulton & Arp 2009) during an analysis of the 2dF deep field image. In this image there are 21 quasars. 14 of these are clustered about galaxy AM2230-284.

Graph: Alton Arp

If we are to assume that the redshift does indeed correlate to distance, then this cluster would occupy a distance of 249Mpc. In comparison the Virgo Cluster occupies just 30Mpc. A quick search of the largest structures in the universe yields more examples of quasar clusters, which are all above the maximum theoretical size possible given the age of our Universe (  Quasars are almost always found in pairs in close proximity to a galaxy (see point 3).

2. Quantisation of quasars

Through Arp’s detailed analysis of so many quasars he discovered that the quasars seemed to have redshifts at specific (quantised) amounts. Initial review of the data does not reveal this quantisation, and this is used as one of the reasons scientists debunk Arps ideas. In order to see this quantisation you need to look at redshifts relative to the parent galaxy. By subtracting the redshift of the galaxy from the quasars a very interesting pattern appears. The redshift of the quasars appears only at specific values and not in between. The shear volume of quasars (25,000) that Arp has analyzed should rule out this being a coincidence.

Quantisation of Quasars from around AM 2230-284

3. Proximity to nearby galaxies and radial alignment

Most quasars appear in pairs in close proximity to Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN). More interesting was that the quasar showed a pattern whereby they were moving away from the AGN. In most pairings one would be moving in one direction and one in the exact opposite (i.e. One to the North and one to the South) and it appears that their angular momentum is conserved, conforming with the ejection theory. There are hundreds of examples in Arp extensive studies (NGC 3516, AM 2230-284) for further reading please use the links below.

4. Physical connection

Image credit: Halton Arp

In Arps’s detailed work he has presented many examples of a physical connection between the AGN and the Quasars. Markarian 205 is a good example. In the original image from 1972 a bridge is clearly visible. Many tried to falsify Arps’s claim, but in a joint piece with Dr. Jack Sulentic from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory they performed extensive analysis of Hubble images and clearly demonstrated that the bridge still existed in higher-resolution images. Lopez-Corredoira and Gutierrez (2006) in their paper on Research on non- cosmological redshift  examined many of Arp’s examples and in over 50% of the cases found definitive anomalies showing clear connections between these objects and the AGN. They even show different objects with very different redshift clearly connected via a filamentary bridge.


5. Quasars located in front of galaxies with low Redshift

Galianni et all., (2004) presented the case of a strong X-ray source with a relatively high redshift which was in front of NGC 7319, an active galaxy with a much lower redshift.

6. Luminosity of Quasars

Quasars are objects which are very compact, estimated to occupy a space less than 1 light year in diameter. If they truly are at these vast distances from us, then their received brightness implies that they must be so energetic that their luminosity is almost unimaginable.  The upper range of luminosity is 100,000 times the luminosity of the Milky Way galaxy, which in turn is 25 million times the luminosity of the Sun.

7. Redshift survey of the local galaxies

By Antonio Ciccolella [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

For some time it has been known that galaxies in our local cluster do not exhibit the same expansion rate compared to galaxies further out. It is believed this is because they are gravitationally locked together slowing the expansion rate. This means we see little redshift in their signatures. D. Russell used this together with the Tully-Fisher Relation to identify these galaxies and compare their redshift values. It can be used to calculate our distance to them by measuring their rotation rate and using this to estimate their mass and hence their luminosity. Using these values he compared their redshift and was able to determine that these galaxies showed an excess redshift that was clearly non-cosmological.

8. Physical Movement of Quasars

We have been observing Quasars for long enough now that it has become apparent that some have changed their shape, moved, or material that has been ejected has moved.  In 1969 Luyten composed a list of quasars and their proper motion.  The lateral motion of quasars projected to their red-shift distances presents, their speed becomes super luminal.

When analysing the jet emitted by the quasar and measuring the speed of these jets, if at their Redshift distance, they would be moving at 7 times the speed of light.  There are also images which show how the ejected material have changed over a relatively short period of time.  When the real motion is analysed, assuming the redshift shows true distance, then this material is being ejected at over seven time the speed of light.

Final Thoughts

I hope this information has planted a seed of doubt around the idea that red shift is a true indication of distance and also made you question what Quasars really are.  If red shift is not a good indication of distance in our Universe then this has major implications for Cosmology, especially the Big Bang.  In future articles I will be exploring the notion of the Big Bang further and also looking at Galaxy formation within the context of an Electric Universe.  Follow the evidence, be brave, be curious, the truth is waiting for us.  Until next time….

M.B. Bell (Bell, 2006) “Because the belief that the redshift of quasars is cosmological has become so entrenched, and the consequences now it being wrong so enormous, astronomers are very reluctant to consider other possibilities. However, there is increasing evidence that some galaxies may form around compact, seed objects ejected with a large intrinsic redshift component from the nuclei of mature active galaxies.”

Further Reading