astronomy Cosmology Physics

Is the Universe really expanding — the evidence revisited

3d expansion question markThe Hubble law, determined from the distances and redshifts of galaxies, for the past 80 years, has been used as strong evidence for an expanding universe. In 2011 I reviewed various lines of evidence for and against this claim. It included the lack of evidence for the necessary existence of time dilation in quasar and gamma-ray burst luminosity variations, angular size tests for galaxies as a function of redshift, the Tolman surface brightness test which is sensitive to expansion of the Universe, evidence that the CMB radiation is not from the background, which it should be if from the big bang fireball as alleged, intergalactic absorption lines due to hydrogen clouds and Lyman-α systems, and what they do tell us. Here I present that information again in light of my current understanding.

This review concluded that the observations could be used to describe either a static universe (where the Hubble law results from some as-yet-unknown mechanism) or an expanding universe described by the standard Λ cold-dark-matter model. In the latter case, the imposition of size evolution of galaxies is necessary to get agreement with observations. Yet the simple non-expanding (i.e. static) Euclidean universe fits most data with the least number of assumptions. I made a straw table comparison with the various lines of evidence to see how they stack up. It was found not to be definitive and hence the result equivocal. From this review it became quite apparent that there are still many unanswered questions in cosmology and it would be a mistake to base one’s theology on any particular cosmology. Far better to base you cosmology and theology on the clear narrative historical prescription in the Genesis account and elsewhere in the Scriptures. (This was first published in two parts in the Journal of Creation 25(3):109-120, 2011.)


Ever since the late 1920s, when Edwin Hubble discovered a simple proportionality1 between the redshifts of the light coming from nearby galaxies and their distances, we have been told that the Universe is expanding. This relationship—dubbed the Hubble Law—has since been strengthened and extended to very great distances in the cosmos. Nowadays it is considered to be the established dogma of the expanding big bang universe. This means that the space that contains the galaxies is expanding and that the galaxies are essentially stationary in that space, but being dragged apart as the universe expands.

Hubble initially interpreted his redshifts as a Doppler effect, due to the motion of the galaxies as they rushed away from our location in the Universe. He called it a ‘Doppler effect’ as though the galaxies were moving ‘through space’—the space itself is not expanding but the galaxies are moving through space, and that is how some people, especially astronomers, initially perceived it. This is different to what has now become accepted, but observations alone cannot distinguish between the two concepts. Later in his life Hubble varied from his initial interpretation and said that the Hubble Law was due to some hitherto undiscovered mechanism, but not due to expansion of space—now called cosmological expansion.

The big bang expanding universe model essentially offers a coherent paradigm or explanatory framework which can, in principle, provide answers to a wide range of key cosmological questions; examples are the origin of extragalactic redshifts, the dynamical state of the Universe (i.e. not apparently collapsing under gravity), Olbers’ paradox (why is the night sky dark?), the origin of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, the origin of galaxies, and the origin of the elements. The fact that its answers to some questions are currently unsatisfactory or unconvincing does not change the basic point that such a model will always be preferred to a more limited model such as a static Euclidean universe, which does not attempt to address such questions. In this sense the big bang model is necessarily preferable regardless of one’s theological position.

However, to date there is no local laboratory experimental evidence that establishes cosmological expansion as a real phenomenon of nature. In that sense cosmology is not science. Though cosmological expansion can be derived as a consequence of Einstein’s General Relativity Theory,2 it has been claimed by some as a fudge factor3 to prop up the ailing standard Lambda cold dark matter (ΛCDM) big bang model, also called the concordance model for the big bang origin and structure of the universe. This paper compares the evidence for and against the concept of cosmological expansion. It necessarily compares it to a static universe.

As stated the Hubble Law can be derived from General Relativity, with an appropriate choice of energy-momentum tensor and metric. And that General Relativity has been successfully empirically tested in the solar system by numerous tests is a very strong point in its favour. But it does not prove it, and unless a physical mechanism can be established that produces a Hubble Law in static universe, then this fact favours the expanding universe. The question of stability against gravitational collapse also counts significantly in favour of the concordance model, which naturally includes the effect of gravity in its formulation. In a static Euclidean model one either has to postulate that collapse is occurring, but on a very long timescale, or postulate some other force field which counteracts gravity; neither would seem an especially attractive option. Of course, this is thinking naturallistically. The Creator Himself may have an interest in preserving His universe into the future and He could maintain it against collapse if He so desired.

The physical evidence

Figure 1. Supernova 1994D in Galaxy NGC 4526. A supernova, an exploding star, is one of the brightest light sources in the universe and can been seen at extremely great distances. The picture indicates the presence of such an explosion. The type 1a supernova are a class that it is believed to have a uniform intrinsic luminosity at the peak intensity of the explosion. Credit: NASA, ESA, The Hubble Key Project Team, and The High-Z Supernova Search Team.

All evidence for cosmological expansion comes from the cosmos itself. Supernovae (exploding stars; see Fig. 1) are among the brightest light sources in the sky. Astrophysicists believe that they have successfully understood the origin of a certain class of these explosions using known physics, including general relativity theory, where a white dwarf star, after accumulating sufficient mass from a companion star to reach a critical limit, catastrophically explodes in a blinding flash of light. The luminosity of the explosion rapidly increases, peaks, and then slowly decreases over days and months. By modelling this, it is believed that one can understand what the intrinsic brightness at the peak of the explosion was, and hence one can establish, for a certain class of these supernovae, a ‘standard candle’. The theory says that the intrinsic brightness at the peak of the explosion is the same for all supernovae in this class—the type 1a, which are identified from the metal content in their spectra. But it now turns out that they are not so well classified as a standard light source. A standard light source means that if you know their intrinsic brightness you can determine their distance in the cosmos. Then using the redshifts of their host galaxies and the Hubble redshift-distance relation (see Fig. 2), the distance modulus, derived from the standard cosmology, the theory can be tested with the matter density (Ωm)4, the dark energy density (ΩΛ)5 and the Hubble constant (H0) as the only free parameters.

From this astronomers claim not only that the universe is expanding but also that the expansion is accelerating. In order to make their observations fit the standard cosmology, they have had to add dark energy with a non-zero value for the cosmological constant (Λ) and also a significant amount of dark matter.6 Together these comprise about 96% of the mass-energy content of the universe, yet they remain unknown entities. However, without them the ΛCDM big bang (BB) model seriously fails to describe the observed luminosities.

One of the consequences of cosmological expansion is time dilation. When the light curves, which show the rise and fall in luminosity of the supernova explosion, are compared at increasing redshifts, their time axes should be stretched due to time dilation with respect to the observer on Earth. In other words, processes that follow a flow of time in the distant cosmos are slowed relative to Earth time, i.e. when observed from Earth (see Fig. 3). This time dilation effect has been clearly observed in the light curves of this type of supernova and is claimed as definitive evidence for expansion.14 Yet, no time dilation has been observed in the luminosity variations of quasars,30,33 which are meant to be at very great distances based on their redshifts and the Hubble law. How can these contradictory claims be reconciled?

Figure 2. Redshift of starlight. The spectrum of the light from a star is compared to a lab sample. Spectral lines identify the gases present in the atmospheres of stars, and this fact makes the comparison possible. The lines then are seen to be either shifted towards the blue end (blueshift) or the red end of the spectrum (redshift). In the case of galaxies, it is the light from all the stars in the galaxy that is measured.

Add to this the evidence that some quasars are apparently associated with relatively low-redshift galaxies,7,8 which can only be reconciled if those quasars are not at their redshift distances but are located nearby. And the fact that proper motion (movement against background celestial objects during a year) is observed in quasars9 really brings into doubt that at least some of them must not be at the supposed cosmological distances based on their redshifts. That means that a large part of a quasar’s redshift must be due to some as-yet-unknown non-cosmological cause, i.e. not due to expansion of space. If verified, this is very damaging to the standard model.

Considering the history of the expanding universe hypothesis, the burden of proof should really rest with those that make the claim. Hubble first thought that the redshifts of the galaxies were due to a Doppler effect (motion of the galaxies through space) but as cosmology developed, some showed theoretically that the effect was due to the expansion of space over the period of flight of the photons from emitter to receiver. Hence it is called cosmological expansion. And the reality is it is claimed to be independent of the emitter source. If independent then that means the origin of the redshifts comes from a process during the flight of the photon from source to receiver. The expansion of space itself is currently the best argument for this.

The question must be asked, what physical evidence do we have that the universe is expanding? In 2003 López-Corredoira15 reviewed the evidence for this and other questions for cosmology today. Here I focus on a review of some of those evidences.

Evidence for time dilation

Type 1a supernovae

Fig 3.
Figure 3. If galaxy redshifts are a result of cosmological expansion, Einstein’s general theory predicts for the standard BB cosmology that also clocks in the distant cosmos should run slower than equivalent clocks on Earth.

The type 1a supernova (SN) measurements are the very best evidence for an expanding universe. In 1998 two independent projects (the Supernova Cosmology Project10 and the High-z Supernova Search11) announced not only was the universe expanding but also accelerating.12 They examined a certain class of supernova and studied the light curves—the brightening and subsequent decay of the light intensity of the explosions. The peak brightness or luminosity (L) they correlated to an absolute magnitude (MB ~ –2.5 log(L)), which is assumed to be an intrinsic brightness fundamental to the class of supernova.

The light curves were adjusted for a stretch factor w = s(1+z), which is claimed to be due to time dilation as a function of epoch (z), where z the redshift of the source. This is absolutely required in an expanding universe. In fact, it is the only redshift mechanism on offer that requires it. To my knowledge this time dilation factor is the only evidence for an expanding universe that sets it apart from a static universe. The Hubble Law—the relationship between the apparent magnitudes (hence distances from luminosities) and redshifts of galaxies (at low redshifts)—is not sufficient grounds to establish an expansion. Theoretically there are other possible redshift mechanisms and to date one author has compiled 59 mechanisms giving a quantitative description of how large redshifts may be related to distance.13

With the analysis of the supernova light curves, the correction—the stretch factor (w)—is determined by hand, an empirical fit to the best selected data. The study that showed the most constrained results found a sample of light curves proportional to (1+z)b where b = 1.07 ± 0.06.14 This seems to be the most definitive measurement of time dilation where b should be identical with unity. However, a possible criticism is that the time under the light curve could depend on the intrinsic brightness of the supernovae (i.e. the correction s), which might vary considerably with the redshift (z).15 Ref. 15 has a very good review of this. A similar point is made by Crawford,16

Since current investigators assume that the type 1a supernovae have essentially a fixed absolute BB [the standard ΛCDM cosmology] magnitude (with possible corrections for the stretch factor), one of the criteria they used is to reject any candidate whose predicted absolute peak magnitude is outside a rather narrow range. The essential point is that the absolute magnitudes are calculated using BB and hence the selection of candidates is dependent on the BB luminosity-distance modulus [emphasis added].

Basically he is claiming it is selection bias. This is circular reasoning; select only the candidates that fit the desired luminosity-distance criteria and use them to determine the luminosity distance. Since one cannot determine the absolute magnitudes of the sources without assuming a cosmology, the standard concordance criteria (Ωm ~ 0.3, ΩΛ ~ 0.7, and H0 ~ 70 km/s/Mpc) are used to calculate the absolute magnitudes for the candidates, which must be in a narrow range, near absolute magnitude MB ~ –19, and the acceptable ones are used to test the same model, and therefore determine values for Ωm and ΩΛ. This is confirmed by Foley et al.23 who state,

… for any individual SN 1a, the intrinsic width is unknown, so without assuming a (1+z) dilation, the intrinsic width and dilation cannot be separated.

Nevertheless for the selected supernovae the regression fit to the derived absolute magnitudes (MB) of the sources on the expected 2.5 log(1 + z) redshift dependence shows that the luminosity is proportional to (1 + z)a, where a = 0.23 ± 0.07. This means that their intrinsic luminosity must have slowly decreased as the universe evolved.17 Note Fig. 13 (page 1036) of Reiss et al.18 where various SN 1a light curves are shown with different absolute magnitudes MB. The brighter sources decline slower than the dimmer sources. The standard explanation for this change is the ad hoc introduction of dark energy19 or quintessence.20 Hence evolution in the size and mass of the galaxies over cosmic time has been assumed as the reason. The question then remains what level of circular reasoning has been used from selection of the candidate type 1a supernovae (plural abbreviation: SNe 1a) because they do not (as initially assumed for a standard ‘candle’ or ‘light bulb’) have the same intrinsic luminosities?

Crawford16 models the luminosities of type 1a supernova in a static universe and finds that the total energy of the explosion (area under the light curve) is a far better ‘standard candle’. Therefore, assuming that all these types of supernovae have essentially the same energy, based on the modelling of the critical Chandrasekhar mass limit of the progenitor white dwarf, the product of the peak luminosity and the width of light curve will be a constant. Since the prime characteristic used for selecting these supernovae is the peak absolute magnitude, which is computed using the standard concordance model,21 there is a strong bias that results in intrinsically weaker supernovae being selected at higher redshifts. And for constant energy these weaker supernovae must have wider light curves. This is a selection effect that has the width of the light curve increasing with redshift and hence can mimic time dilation in the resulting selected candidates.

When Crawford16 applies his model of absolute energy (absolute magnitude in his static model plus correction for width) for each supernova in the same SN 1a data sets22 used by the big bang community, he finds the energy of the explosion to be invariant over all redshifts with a curve-fit slope of 0.047 ± 0.089, which is consistent with zero. This means no change over all redshifts. Using a simple selection model for SN 1a data, he shows their width-dependence on redshift, and considering the biased nature of the data, it is a very reasonable fit. Hence no time dilation and no cosmological expansion. Because no additional energy is needed for the fit, no dark energy or quintessence is needed either.

In an effort to resolve this time dilation question in supernova light-curves a single supernova (1997ex) was studied23 at different epochs separated by months, and found that the spectral evolution of the source is inconsistent with no time dilation at a very high confidence level. The claim lies in the spectral-feature age that is used to independently determine the aging of the source at approximately monthly intervals. The derived age measure is then compared to the expected (1+z) aging. Hence the amount of aging in the supernova rest frame should be a factor of (1 + z)−1 smaller than that in the observer frame. The results were found to be consistent with time dilation. It should also be mentioned that this latter paper discusses the consistency of time dilation seen both in the SN light-curve, over monthly timescales, and in the wavelengths of the light seen in the observer frame, i.e. in the redshifting of the light from the source. This is the important distinction for this review. Are longer timescale time measures consistent with the “femtosecond time dilation” in the observed redshift of the light from the sources?

The concept of the accelerating universe has come from the very highest redshift type 1a supernova observations, and hence the idea of dark energy (or a cosmological constant) driving the Universe apart. This has resulted from a deficit of the expected luminosity determined from the standard model with the cosmological constant Λ = 0 and the luminosity observed in these distant sources. However it has also been criticized on the basis of intergalactic dust24,25 causing the added deficit and that the presence of grey dust is not inconsistent with the measure on the most distant supernova at redshift z = 1.7 (SN 1997ff).25

Type 1a supernovae may also have a metallicity26 dependence on redshift, which may mean that the resulting non-zero value of the cosmological constant may require corrections for metallicity by factors as large as the effects of the assumed cosmology itself.27 This causes an underestimate of the effects of host galaxy extinction; a factor which contributes to the apparent faintness of the high-redshift supernovae is evolution of the host galaxy extinction as a function of redshift, caused by the presence of gases (other than hydrogen and helium) and dust. Therefore with a proper treatment of the latter, and if one eliminates those SN 1a sources not observed before peak brightness is reached, the evidence for a cosmological constant (and dark energy) is quite weak.

Ivanov has developed a quantum gravity static universe model28 that has a Hubble Law resulting from quantum interactions. There is no time dilation in his model. The author compares the predictions of his model with both SNe 1a and GRBs without time dilation.29 In other words he corrects the published SN 1a distance modulii for the time dilation stretch factor and compares with his model. The fits are extremely good yet no dark energy term is needed. Ivanov concludes his paper with the telling remark,

… the discovery of dark energy in a frame of the standard cosmological model is only an artefact of the conjecture about an existence of time dilation.

This confirms the circularity involved here. So one can say then that if there exists at least one static model where if one corrects the SN 1a data for no time dilation and it fits that model, then that creates significant doubt about the need for dark energy and dark matter in the first instance.

Quasar luminosity variations

As mentioned above no time dilation is found in quasar observations. This is powerful evidence against any time dilation effects in the Universe as a function of epoch or expansion redshift (z).

Quasars show variations in their luminosities over timescales of weeks to years. Research by Hawkins from 1975 to 2002 provides very strong evidence that quasars do not exhibit any time dilation.30,33 His evidence covers timescales from 50 days to 28 years and uses Fourier power spectral analysis. Data from groups of quasars at low (z < 1) and high redshift (z > 1) are compared to look for changes expected from time dilation. They do not show any when considered from the observer’s frame of reference. How can this be reconciled with the SN 1a measurements? There is also an anticorrelation between the luminosity and the amplitude of the light curves of the quasars. For a sample of quasars, the more luminous are seen to vary over a smaller range of brightness than the less luminous ones.

Explanations to compensate for the lack of time dilation are discussed and involve the possibility that time dilation effects are exactly offset by an increase in the timescale of variations associated with black hole growth (thought to power the quasar), or that the variations that are observed are caused by microlensing,31 not intrinsic to the quasar, and hence, in such a case, time dilation would not be expected. But these would have to occur in the same manner over all timescales and are again a case of special pleading.

In the case of gravitationally lensed quasar images, there are some cases that seem to support the conventional redshift-distance relationship for quasars, e.g. QSO 0957+561;32 time variations/time delays between images of same source have been construed as supporting a standard value of the Hubble constant H0. However, Arp and others for a long time have argued that gravitationally imaged quasars may, in some cases at least, be pairs of quasars with very similar non-cosmological redshifts.7

GRB luminosity variations

Hawkins33 states that the evidence for time dilation from gamma ray bursts (GRBs) is inconclusive; initially because of the uncertainty in the intrinsic timescales of the bursts, and later, once the redshifts of bursts were found, the problem of correcting the raw data for selection effects involving an inverse correlation between luminosity and time measures made it difficult to use GRBs to detect time dilation.

However, Crawford34 finds that GRBs out to z = 6.6 show no evidence of time dilation in the raw data and he rejects the hypothesis with a probability of 4.4 × 10–6 that the data support the concept. He makes a careful analysis of the traditional explanation that an inverse correlation between luminosity and the time measures together with strong luminosity selection as a function of redshift cancels any observed time dilation. He confirms that there is an inverse correlation between luminosity and some time measures (there are four main ones, and it is strongly seen in two of them), but using the concordance cosmology strong luminosity selection cannot be achieved. It may be possible to explain the apparent lack of time dilation with a combination of gamma-ray-burst selection, some luminosity evolution and some time-measure evolution. But this requires a remarkable coincidence, where opposite effects exactly cancel, in order to produce the apparent lack of time dilation. However the data are consistent with a static cosmology in a non-expanding universe. He finds that, assuming a static universe, the total energy of the GRBs is invariant with redshift. This is a similar result that can be shown in the type 1a supernova data also.

Evidence against expansion

Angular size test

The test of the dependence of the angular size of some astronomical sources as a function of redshift was first conceived by Fred Hoyle.35 In principle, it is simple, but in application not so simple, because of the difficulty in finding a ‘standard rod’, a type of object with no evolution in linear size over the lifetime of the universe. The angular sizes of QSOs (quasi-stellar objects or quasars) and radio galaxies at radio wavelengths, for first-ranked cluster galaxies in the optical, and for the separation of brightest galaxies in clusters, or in QSO-galaxy pairs of the same redshift have all been measured.36 (Ref. 36 provides an excellent analysis of this and the Tolman surface brightness test. See also the references contained therein.)

This type of test is related to the Tolman surface brightness test but tests for the angular size (θ) of an object as a function of epoch (z). This will vary quite noticeably depending on the cosmology assumed. The angular sizes of radio galaxies over a range up to z = 2 show a dependence θ z−1,37,38 which is a static Euclidean effect over all scales. Size evolution as a function of redshift is needed for this to fit the standard model.

In the standard model evolution in object size is assumed and generally is used to make up for any deficiency between the modelled and observed sizes as a function of redshift. Any discovered θ z−1 dependence, as predicted by a static Euclidean universe, would be just a fortuitous coincidence of the superposition of the angular size θ(z) dependence in the expanding universe with evolutionary and/or selection effects. However, the fit of radio source counts was found to be best when no evolution was assumed.39 López-Corredoira2 found that, if assuming the standard cosmological model as correct, the average linear size of galaxies, with the same luminosity, is six times smaller at z = 3.2 than at z = 0, and their average angular size for a given luminosity is approximately proportional to z−1.

Neither the hypothesis that galaxies which formed earlier have much higher densities nor their luminosity evolution, nor their merger ratio, nor massive outflows due to a quasar feedback mechanism are enough to justify such a strong size evolution. Without a very strong size evolution the standard model is unable to fit the angular size vs redshift dependence. This requires between two and four major mergers per galaxy during its lifetime, which is observationally unjustifiable. Also it is not known how local massive elliptical galaxies have grown, as similar-sized galaxies are known at high redshift. Therefore it follows that the nearby ones must have been much smaller at high redshift assuming size evolution to be true. And no method is known whereby spiral galaxies grow through mergers and preserve their spiral disk nature.

Some disk galaxies have been found that have no nuclear bulge; they are considered to be almost too good to be true.40 Kormendy et al. (2010) ask the question: “How can hierarchical clustering make so many giant, pure-disk galaxies with no evidence for merger-built bulges?” Simulations show that as spirals merge, their spiral disk structure is lost. Observations of five brightest cluster galaxies (BCGs) at redshifts 0.8 < z < 1.3 were compared to a group of BCGs at z = 0.2 and found to be no more than 30% smaller, indicating little or no evolution contrary to the standard model.41

As mentioned, the main difficulty with this type of measure is establishing the standard size of the objects being observed. However, the cosmological model that uses a very simple phenomenological extrapolation of the linear Hubble Law in a Euclidean static universe fits the angular size vs redshift dependence quite well, which is approximately proportional to z−1. There are no free parameters derived ad hoc, although the error bars allow a slight size/luminosity evolution. The type 1a supernovae Hubble diagram can also be explained in terms of this model with no ad hoc fitted parameter, i.e. no dark matter nor dark energy.

Tolman surface brightness

In 1935 Hubble and Tolman42 proposed the so-called Tolman test based on the measure of the brightness of galaxies as a function of epoch. A galaxy at redshift z differs in the surface brightness depending on whether there is recession or not. The choice of units determine the redshift dependence, and in bolometric units the surface brightness of identical objects varies by (1+z)4: one (1+z) factor due to time dilation (a decrease in photons per unit time), one factor (1+z) from the decrease of energy per photon and two factors from the fact that the object was closer to us by (1+z) when the light was emitted. In an expanding universe, regardless of the units the ratio of surface brightness in an expanding and non-expanding universe is (1+z)-3. This is independent of wavelength.

Lerner43 tested the evolution of galaxy size hypothesis, the ‘catch-all’ used to make the standard model fit the angular size of galaxies as a function of redshift. His method is based on the fact that there is a limit on the ultra-violet (UV) surface brightness of a galaxy, because when the surface density of hot bright stars, and thus supernovae increases, large amounts of dust are produced that absorb all the UV except that from a thin layer. Further increase in surface density of hot bright stars beyond a given point just produces more dust, and a thinner surface layer, not an increase in UV surface brightness. Based on this principle, there should be a maximum surface brightness in UV-rest wavelengths independent of redshift. Scarpa et al.44 measured in low redshift galaxies a maximum FUV (1550 Å at rest) emission of 18.5 magAB/arcsec2, and no galaxy should be brighter per unit angular area than that. López-Corredoira, using data from Trujillo et al.45 determined surface brightness values for galaxies under the assumptions of both expanding and static universes. They found that in the expanding case many galaxies would have to be brighter than the allowed limit by even up to 6 times. In the case of the static universe no galaxy would be brighter than this limit.

Lerner46 using a large UV dataset of disk galaxies in a wide range of redshifts (from 0.03 to 5.7), which included 3 sets of galaxies at low redshift (z ≤ 0.1) and 8 sets of galaxies at high redshift (0.9 < z < 5.7) from the Hubble telescope Ultra-Deep Field, show that there is a decided preference for a fit to the angular size data with a Euclidean non-expanding (ENE) universe over that of the expanding ΛCDM concordance model. In fact the results are a very poor fit to the ΛCDM model. If the redshift range is restricted to 0.03 < z < 3.5, then the ENE model provides a reasonably good fit. When a very small amount of extinction is allowed for, the fit is near perfect.

The CMB radiation

There are two important issues here in relation to an expanding universe:

  1. Can we really trust that the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) is from a background source?
  2. Does measurement of the temperature of that radiation at different epochs tell us something cosmological?

The CMBR was a successful prediction of the standard model (Gamow, in 1948, predicted relic radiation from the big bang) but unless you could show that it could not originate elsewhere, it would not be proven. Lieu, Mittaz and Zhang47 (2006) showed that when 31 relatively nearby clusters of galaxies (where most z < 0.2) were studied for any decrement in temperature, a shadowing of the CMBR by the clusters, it was only detected in 25% of the clusters. They looked for the expected temperature decrement of the X-ray emitting intergalactic medium via the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect (SZE) and found sometimes even a heating effect. Bielby and Shanks48 (2007) extended that work in 38 clusters to show that not only was the SZE less than what was expected but that it tended to progressively disappear for redshifts from 0.1 to 0.3. Their result is statistically equivalent to a null result (no shadowing) at about the 2s level.

Figure 5: The surface of the balloon is a 2D analogy for the 3D space containing galaxies in the universe. As the balloon expands, the pictured galaxies all move away from each other. There is no unique centre. For the analogy to work, the 3D space must be curved into an additional dimension—hyperspace. The stretching of the fabric of space is called cosmological expansion.

This result then brings into doubt the fact that the CMBR is from the background, i.e. from the big bang and therefore whether cosmic expansion (Fig. 5) is a valid hypothesis.

Update (01/03/2018) I first have made this argument in 2006 based on the work of Prof. Lieu and others. If the big bang were true, the light from the fireball should cast a shadow in the foreground of all galaxy clusters as illustrated below. However new research (Xiao, W., Chen, C., Zhang, B., Wu, Y., and Dai, M., Sunyaev–Zel’dovich effect or not? Detecting the main foreground effect of most galaxy clusters, MNRASL 432, L41–L45, 2013) has thrown this conclusion into doubt. Prof. Lieu at the time wrote “Either it [the microwave background] isn’t coming from behind the clusters, which means the Big Bang is blown away, or … there is something else going on.” As it turns out that “something else” is contamination of the expected shadowing by radio emissions from the galaxy clusters themselves.

Without anything to contradict this new result, and the analysis seems strong, one must entertain the possibility that the anomaly first found by Lieu et al in 2006 has been adequately explained. The problem of course is that astrophysics is not exactly operational science. At best this no-shadow argument is now equivocal and hence I suggest that it may no longer be used as an argument against the big bang hypothesis.

However, to examine that more precisely one should study the temperature of the CMB radiation at past epochs.

In 1941, McKellar49 interpreted interstellar absorption lines in the blue part of the optical spectrum arising from diatomic CN molecules as being excited by background radiation with a blackbody spectrum and a required temperature of 2.3 K. This was from sources in the galaxy and well before the discovery of the CMBR. So it was not really a prediction of Gamow and big bang theory in 1948. Nevertheless, big bang cosmology predicts that the temperature of CMBR is a function of redshift and that the temperature is higher than that in the galaxy by the factor (1+z).

Hence from the excitation of atomic transitions in absorbing clouds at high redshifts along the line of sight to distant quasars, assuming the atoms are in equilibrium with the CMBR, this temperature can be determined. In one such case,50 a temperature of 7.4 ± 0.8 K at z = 1.776 was derived which agrees very well with the theoretical prediction of 7.58 K. However, another component of the same cloud with a very similar redshift gave a temperature of 10.5 ± 0.5 K, not in such good agreement with theory. Others also found a similar result.51 And measurements on a cloud at z = 2.34 gave a temperature between 6 and 14 K.52 This is in accord with the 9.1 K predicted by the standard cosmology but with larger errors.

From the analysis of the C+ fine-structure population ratio in the damped Lyman alpha or Lyman-α (Lyα) absorber system towards a quasar,53 at z = 3.025, a temperature of 14.6 ± 0.2 K was calculated, for a theoretical prediction of 10.97 K. The discrepancy is attributed to the existence of other mechanisms of excitation, like collisions, for example. But that means that other measurements (in other papers) should also be affected by other mechanisms of excitation and they can just give the maximum CMBR temperature, but not the minimum. They can’t have it both ways. We are expected to believe that when the results agree with the theoretical predictions, no other mechanisms are involved, but when the results do not agree, they are. Therefore, the increase of CMBR temperature as a function of redshift (z) by the factor (1+z) has not been proven. But the above references do generally imply that the temperature of the CMBR at higher redshifts than the present (z = 0) is higher than 2.7 K. How does a static Euclidean model explain such a general trend if it is finally proven? That is a good question.

Absorption systems and Lyα lines

When neutral hydrogen (H1) clouds are back lit by the light from a quasar, absorption lines are seen at redshifts less (shorter wavelengths) than that of the quasar (Fig. 6). These result from the fundamental Lyman excitation of the neutral atoms, from around 121.6 nm (for Lyman alpha, Lyα) to 102.5 nm (for Lyman beta, Lyβ). They are found in the vacuum ultra-violet part of the spectrum. The presence of a very large group of these lines (called the Lyα forest), representing many foreground hydrogen clouds, has been said to be a very good probe of the intergalactic medium.54

Figure 6: Spectrum obtained from a quasar where radiation has been absorbed by intervening clouds between the source and observer. Credit: NASA (

At first sight, the Lyα forest seems to be very good evidence that the quasars are at their large redshift distances (Fig. 6). It would seem to contradict the claim of Arp and others that some quasars have large intrinsic redshifts that are not due to cosmological expansion. The light from the quasar is uniformly redshifted. If this is due to some intrinsic effect, it would not translate into a series of lines representing lower and lower redshift distances towards the observer from absorbing hydrogen clouds in the foreground of the quasar. The absorption lines are measured at redshifts less than that of the quasar, hence would be at their cosmological redshift distances in an expanding universe. See also The Distances to Quasars.

However, all is not as it might first appear. In 2006, Prochter et al.55 published observations that they described as ‘astonishing’. They found by using spectra of GRBs they were able to “… identify 14 strong Mg II absorbers along 14 GRB sight lines (nearly every sight line exhibits at least one absorber)…”. This meant that every GRB they observed showed at least one absorbing cloud/galaxy in its foreground, whereas only one quarter of quasars shows the presence of absorbing clouds/galaxies.

What is so special about GRBs that they always have an absorber in their foreground? This was discussed in a letter to the journal Science,56 where it was mentioned that these features observed in the GRB spectra might be intrinsic to the ‘home galaxy’ that hosts the gamma-ray burst and not to foreground galaxies. In the case of this study, they used Mg II lines and not H1 lines.

Lanzetta of Stony Brook University in New York is quoted by the Science article,

‘If I had to bet, I would say this is that one-in-10,000 statistical fluke that happens every now and then,’ … . ‘It will probably go away when more observations become available. We’ll have to wait and see.’ If the puzzle remains after 15 or 30 more GRBs are analyzed, however, then ‘something very strange must be going on,’ Lanzetta says.

Well, by 2009, Tejos et al.57 found that the number of absorbing systems towards GRBs was three times larger than towards quasars (from a sample of 8 GRBs studied), and no good explanation for the anomaly is forthcoming, though a few have been proposed. This then adds doubt to the proposition that the Lyα lines represent neutral hydrogen clouds, absorbers, in the foreground of the quasars also.

A Gunn–Peterson trough is claimed to result when many Lyα absorption lines overlap due to many clouds of neutral hydrogen. This is theorized to have occurred towards the end of the so-called era of reionization. The Gunn–Peterson trough is seen in the spectra of some quasars, and is strongly dependent on redshift. It is not seen in all quasar spectra. The standard model explains this where the intergalactic medium has been reionized—hence no absorption. The Gunn–Peterson trough is evidence for the era of the dark ages (high opacity) where there is only neutral hydrogen.

López-Corredoira58 describes some observations on this:

A hydrogen Gunn–Peterson trough was predicted to be present at a redshift z = 6.1.59,60 Indeed, a complete Gunn–Peterson trough at z = 6.28 was discovered,59 which means that the Universe is approaching the reionization epoch at zr = 6. However, galaxies have been observed at z = 6.68,61 or z = 6.56 without the opacity features62 prior to the reionization, and the epoch of reionization was moved beyond zr = 6.6.62

An inhomogeneous reionization59 is a possibility to explain the apparent disagreement of the different data. Recent measures of CMBR anisotropies by the WMAP observations give a reionization epoch zr= 20–9+10 (95% CL).63 If we were going to believe that CMBR anisotropies are being correctly interpreted in terms of the standard cosmology, we would have again a new inconsistency.

So the data and the theory do not really coincide. A Gunn–Peterson trough is observed at a redshift well after the epoch 11 < z < 30 from CMBR observations. So is it really due the theorized effect?

For the hydrogen cloud absorption lines to show a large redshift and the latter not to be due to cosmological expansion, then those lines would have to originate in the atmosphere of the quasar and be generated by the same unknown intrinsic effect as that of the quasar. As the light passes through a quasar’s atmosphere, the H1 atoms, as a function of distance above the quasar, would have to have different Doppler speeds inward and hence be slightly less redshifted than the putative parent quasar. In other words, it has to be some mechanism connected to the quasar itself. If not, the standard model has a good argument in favour of cosmological expansion.

Ashmore64 reviewed and analyzed the spacing of hydrogen clouds as a function of redshift, by taking literature data on numbers of neutral hydrogen clouds measured as a function of redshift from their absorption lines with background quasars. He made the usual BB assumptions that quasars are at their redshift distances and that the Lyα absorption lines result from hydrogen clouds in the foreground of quasars.

From this, Ashmore showed that the cloud spacing is constant out to a redshift of about 0.5 when most studies are combined and out to z = 1.6 from one particular survey. Beyond z ~ 0.5 generally there is a decrease in cloud spacing from other studies. With standard assumptions, this would mean the universe expanded up to z ~ 0.5 and then became static. If it once expanded, it describes an expanding universe that decelerated and became static.

Also the Doppler line broadening from the clouds indicates a near linear decrease in temperature as a function of redshift, which is the opposite of what one expects from the standard model. Above we discussed the increased redshift dependence on the temperature of the CMBR. However, if this temperature is indicative of the intergalactic medium, this implies that the CMBR must be local. For a perfect black body spectrum, if the CMBR arose from the earliest times, it must have begun at a lower temperature than observed locally.

Certainly, within the constraints of the standard cosmological model these observations are contrary to what would be expected. And if the quasars are not at their redshift distances it would change the redshift dependence of the results. But the fact alone of the quasars not being at their redshift distances would significantly change our understanding of modern cosmology.

Mainstream cosmology explains it as a coincidence and puts it down to a precarious balance between expansion and galaxy formation on the one hand and rate of ionization on the other. For lower redshifts, expansion and galaxy formation have the effect of reducing the density of H1 clouds, but the density of quasars also reduces, producing a reduction in the local background UV, which reduces the rate at which the clouds disappear by ionization under the set column density.


A long time ago the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah,

“ I have made the earth, and created man on it: I, even My hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded [emphasis added]” (Isaiah 45:12).

The Creator God made the heavens and set out all the stars and galaxies that we see in the night sky. Using this and several other verses like it, several creationists have contended that the Scriptures imply cosmological expansion of space. But that position cannot be justified from Scripture alone.65 Nor can it be concluded from this review of observational evidence.66

Scripture tells us,

“He has made every thing beautiful in His time: also He has set the world [eternity, time out of mind] in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end [emphasis added]” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

From this passage it appears that there are those who cannot find out God’s Truth, possibly because they have rejected their Maker. They begin with the conclusion they seek. The Universe formed itself in a big bang some 13.78 billion years ago and has expanded ever since, so they allege. This is the basis on which they seek the answers to questions in the cosmos.

The best evidence in support of an expanding cosmos is the type 1a supernova observations. However, to choose the candidate supernovae, the standard concordance model is used. And yet those same observations can be made to fit a static universe without the time dilation factor necessary to the BB universe. In this case the main line of evidence in support of the big bang is the (1+z) time dilation factor, but if that is due to a selection effect, then there is no definitive evidence for an expansion as required. This article has highlighted the lack of the necessary time dilation that should be present in an expanding universe.

Table Expanding Static
Table 1. A straw poll of how the evidences stack up for an expanding universe. There is no winner due to the unknown weights to assign to the various evidences. A couple of points have not been discussed much in the main text. (Click image for larger version.)

Why do quasars, supposedly the most distant sources in the universe, not show any evidence of this cosmological time dilation? The universe could simply be static—that would neatly solve the problem. Or the quasars may not be so distant—not at their redshift distances. That is what Halton Arp and others have claimed for a long time. But to save the standard model, one must assume that there has been a conspiracy of competing effects, including an accumulation of black hole mass at the core of these quasars, over cosmic time, that exactly cancels any observable time dilation.

The Hubble diagram—that tests any model with the brightness of the observed astronomical sources against their redshifts—fits a static universe with a simple Euclidean non-expanding space just as well as it does the standard concordance big bang model. In the former case no dark matter, no dark energy, no inflation—all unknown in the lab—are needed. It extrapolates the simple Hubble Law to all redshifts. And it should be realized that many alternatives have been suggested for the mechanism behind the observed redshifts that don’t require cosmological expansion, however very little research has been expended on such. Nevertheless a mechanism for cosmic redshifts (the Hubble Law) has been neatly derived from Einstein’s general theory, which has been successfully tested in the solar system and with pulsar binary pairs. The latter test the theory in different domains to that of cosmological redshifts, yet they add support that the same theory would apply elsewhere.

Looking at the angular sizes of galaxies as a function of redshift, the static universe model provides a better fit than the standard model and with the least number of assumptions. However, by suitably choosing, ad hoc, evolution in size of galaxies as a function of redshift (by orders of magnitude more than any observation), the standard model can be saved. In fact, this argument is usually turned around. The big bang model is assumed to be correct, and hence galaxies must have evolved in size over cosmic time by mergers and thus it becomes only a ‘research problem’ to find how this happened.

Taking together all the evidences presented here (see Table 1 above), in my opinion, it is impossible to conclude either way whether the Universe is expanding or static. The evidence is equivocal.67 It would seem that cosmology is far from a precision science, and there is still a lot more work that needs to be done to resolve the apparently contradictory evidence.


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By John Gideon Hartnett

Dr John G. Hartnett is an Australian physicist and cosmologist, and a Christian with a biblical creationist worldview. He received a B.Sc. (Hons) and Ph.D. (with distinction) in Physics from The University of Western Australia, W.A., Australia. He was an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA) fellow at the University of Adelaide, with rank of Associate Professor. Now he is retired. He has published more than 200 papers in scientific journals, book chapters and conference proceedings.

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