Quasars exhibit no time dilation and still defy a big bang explanation

In April 2010, Marcus Chown wrote in an article entitled “Time waits for no quasar—even though it shouldfor New Scientist online,

“Why do distant galaxies seem to age at the same rate as those closer to us when big bang theory predicts that time should appear to slow down at greater distances from Earth? No one can yet answer this new question [emphasis added] … .”


Figure 1: An artist’s depiction of what a quasar is believed to be — a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy.

He says no one can answer this question. But this question has already been answered before it was even asked. To understand this we need some background.

Quasars are assumed to be supermassive black holes with the mass of a galaxy2 that are the early progenitors of the mature galaxies we see around us today. See Fig. 1. They nearly all exhibit extremely large redshifts in their emitted light and the big bang community believes that these redshifts are nearly entirely due to cosmological expansion. Therefore it follows that these massive objects are extremely bright and are being observed at some stage only several billion years after the alleged origin of the Universe in the big bang. Hence, from their redshifts when interpreted as resulting from cosmological expansion of the Universe, using Einstein’s general theory of relativity, it follows that the greater the redshift the greater the effect of the distortion of time at the quasar. That is, local clocks on quasars at greater redshifts should run slower than local clocks on quasars at lower redshifts, which are interpreted to mean that they are closer to us. (This post is based on my original article “Quasars again defy a big bang explanation” published in the Journal of Creation 24(2):8-9, 2010.)

No time dilation

But that is where the problem comes in. Mike Hawkins of the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, UK, looked at light from quasars and he found no time dilation. He used observations of nearly 900 quasars made over periods of up to 28 years. According to the article, he “compared patterns in the light between quasars about 6 billion light years from us with those at 10 billion light years away.” But the distances assigned here are actually derived from the assumed cosmology and the Hubble law. What was really measured was the redshifts of those quasars. However the problem arises because quasars scintillate or their brightness varies. This scintillation can have periods of as little as a week, or even a day. That tells us something about the size of the object at the core, since that time should be of the scale of the light-travel time across the light-emitting region.2

Chown writes,

“All quasars are broadly similar, and their light is powered by matter heating up as it swirls into the giant black holes at the galaxies’ cores. So one would expect that a brightness variation on the scale of, say, a month in the closer group would be stretched to two months in the more distant group.”

Then he goes on to quote Hawkins:To my amazement, the [light signatures] were exactly the same … There was no time dilation in the more distant objects.[emphasis added]

But according to Einstein there should be observable time dilation if they are at their cosmological distances, i.e. at distances determined only from their redshifts and big bang cosmology. The big bang believer is amazed here because using a different line of evidence, the type Ia supernovae, and the redshifts of the galaxies they are observed in, they claim observation of the expected “time dilation” in the rate at which the brightness of the supernovae explosions fade way. That is, the more distant supernova explosions seem to dim more slowly than those nearby. But is that really the case? See Is the Universe really expanding — the evidence revisited.

In the article, Chown says that Hawkins classes possible explanations as either “wacky” or “not so wacky”. The wacky ideas include the obvious that the quasars are not so far away after all and that their redshifts are not indicators of distance at all. Chown claims that this idea has been “discredited”. It may have been discredited by the big bang believers but only by circular reasoning not by robust science.

The edifice of the big bang hangs on the interpretation that the quasar redshifts are cosmological. If they are not:

  1. it brings into question the origin of quasars, and,
  2. it means the quasars may be nearby, not as distant as their redshifts and the Hubble law would indicate.
QSO ejection

Figure 2: Arp cites many examples of quasars found aligned within ± 20 degrees of the minor axis of the active nucleus of a galaxy. The minor axis is perpendicular to the plane of rotation of the galaxy. They are often seen within a few arc minutes of a parent galaxy, in pairs, on opposite sides as though they were ejected from the active nucleus. Their redshifts are large compared to the parent but they have a higher probability than the background average of being near the putative parent. This suggests physical association and that their redshifts are intrinsic, of an unknown origin, but not cosmological nor due to Doppler motion. QSO = Quasi-Stellar Object or a quasar.

This latter idea is linked to the work of Halton Arp3 and others that showed strong correlation between parent galaxies that have ejected quasars from their active cores. See Fig. 2. The origin of all matter was not at the big bang but over time in a grand ongoing creation scenario. Arp believed quasars were ejected from the active hearts of parent galaxies and their redshifts were largely intrinsic, not distance related. This has very interesting creationist interpretations.4

Certainly the notions are poison to the big bang, else why would Prof. Joseph Silk have written,

“Only by disputing the interpretation of quasar redshifts as a cosmological distance indicator can this conclusion be avoided [emphasis added].”5

Because most of the high redshift objects in the Universe are quasars, if their redshifts are due to cosmological expansion then they are good evidence for an expanding universe. The conclusion that Silk means is the expanding universe. If the quasar redshifts are not reliable as a distance indicator, as Arp’s hypothesis of ejection of quasars from the active cores of relatively nearby galaxies suggests, then the conclusion that the universe is expanding can be avoided. Arp, in fact, believed in a static universe.

More recent explanations

I decided to look to see if anyone has an answer now to this conundrum posed by Hawkins. I searched the web (in August 2016) looking for a big bang solution to the lack of time dilation in quasars and I found nothing of any significance.

Interestingly, I found, about two years after this New Scientist article was published and a news report was published online6 discussing the idea, published in Physical Review Letters, of using the light variations of quasars, but tested on 14 quasars, to determine their distances independently of their redshifts and hence use them as a standard candle, in the same way that the type Ia supernovae are used, and hence test cosmology. The article states:6

… as it happens, quasars also have regularities in their light curves – how they brighten and dim over time – that could easily be used to determine their redshifts. Dejan Stojkovic from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo, US, and colleagues found that using the light curves to calculate the redshift of a quasar, independent from its luminosity–distance relation, would then allow quasars to be used as standard candles.

From this I can only conclude that the work of Hawkins has either been ignored or that the big bang paradigm is so strongly believed that Hawkins’ conclusion must be considered faulty. So much so that they would use the very evidence that Hawkins’ data indicates that there is no redshift dependence in the intensity variations of quasars. Therefore they looked for data segments of available data in 14 quasars, of a total of 56 that they had access to, to get an agreement with their new idea. They do admit though that they don’t know if this method could apply to all quasar types. But quite obviously the elephant in the room has been ignored, that is, that when taken over 900 quasars, of different redshifts, no time dilation in their light variations is seen, hence no redshift dependence in those light variations.

One author I found, a mathematician, wrote that,7

The Hawkins result implies that, for a large class of quasars, the generator and the
modulator are some distance apart with the modulator in a region of low cosmological
redshift. The modulator must lie on the light path from the generator to us. There
are only two possibilities: it lies close to the generator, which therefore has intrinsic
redshift, or, it lies on the path to us and close enough to us for the cosmological redshift
to be small. As we have just seen, this second possibility is implausible, and intrinsic
redshift is proved.

He believes the evidence favours, even ‘proves’, intrinsic redshifts, which is Arp’s hypothesis. He might use the word ‘prove’ as a mathematician but it is not a word a physicist should ever use. We can only disprove a hypothesis, never prove one. Nevertheless, it could be argued that the Hawkins evidence is consistent with intrinsic redshifts in quasars and that they are not so distant. That is certainly one way to explain the result.

I’ll keep looking for a big bang supporting explanation.

Green elephants

I sent the Chown (NewScientist.com) article to the amateur astronomer/professional physicist and author Hilton Ratcliffe8 to get his comment and he replied,

“It’s the old green elephant story—if it doesn’t fit the model, then a green elephant caused it. Not falsifiable.”9

He is quite correct, as the ‘not-so-wacky’ solution suggested uses circular reasoning—the big bang theory is true, quasars are at their cosmological distances—therefore it is massive black holes eclipsing the quasars that mitigate against us observing time dilation in their light variations. But this by their own admission introduces other big problems, including too much dark matter in the Universe due these black holes.

Well, as of 2016, Ratcliffe’s green elephants still sound like a good explanation.


  1. Chown, M., Time waits for no quasar – even though it should, NewScientist.com, April 7, 2010.
  2. See Hartnett, J.G., Quantized quasar redshifts in a creationist cosmology, J. of Creation 18(2):105–113, 2004.
  3. For a good introduction see Oard, M.J., Doppler Toppler?” J. of Creation 14(3):39–45, 2000; Worraker, B.J. and McIntosh, A.C., A different view of the universe, J. of Creation 14(3):46–50, 2000; and Arp, H., Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology and Academic Science, Apeiron, Montreal, 1998.
  4. Hartnett, J.G., The heavens declare a different story! J. of Creation 17(2):94–97, 2003.
  5. Silk, J., The Big Bang, W.H. Freeman and Co., New York, 2000.
  6. Quasars shine a new light on cosmic distances, PhysicsWorld.com, May 4, 2012.
  7. Rourke, C., Intrinsic redshift in quasars, Mathematics Institute, University of Warwick, UK.
  8. Hartnett, J.G., Heretic challenges the giants! J. of Creation 23(2):32–37, 2009.
  9. Private email communication 8 April 2010

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4 thoughts on “Quasars exhibit no time dilation and still defy a big bang explanation

  1. the problem is not a big bang, but the current conventional big bang model (deep-time, stars formed out there, ongoing cosmic expansion) whereas in the SPIRAL cosmological redshift hypothesis, YeC, proto-stars/galaxies formed by here , and no ongoing cosmic expansion. So we do have a big bang hypothesis that is consistent with these YeC friendly scientific observations.


    • I am not sure what you mean by having a big bang hypothesis consistent with YeC friendly observations. The observations are what they are. It is the interpretation of those that makes it YeC or big bang cosmology friendly. These quasar observations defy standard big bang cosmology still 6 years after Hawkins last published.


  2. At the beginning of his article a statement is made with a response:

    “Why do distant galaxies seem to age at the same rate as those closer to us when big bang theory predicts that time should appear to slow down at greater distances from Earth? No one can yet answer this new question”

    My response to this theory that predicts that time SHOULD APPEAR to slow down at greater distances from Earth is correct ONLY from the perspective of the Earthbound. It is not just the distance from EARTH that changes the flow of time in reference to this aging conundrum, but instead it is the DISTANCE from the GRAVITATIONAL FIELD of Earth that supplies the change. This is similar to the Doppler Effect, which is affected by the viewing perspective of the observer.

    It is NOT simply the gravitation field of Earth that affects the passage of time, but it is the cumulative effect of ALL of the gravitational fields throughout the universe that affect this passage of time and our perception of whether or not time appears to move faster or slower.


    • If you propose, as Russ Humphreys, once did in his first creationist cosmological model (in his book “Starlight and Time“) that the earth is at the centre of a finite bounded universe, then the effect you would see is progressively larger blueshifts in galaxy light because clocks in the cosmos would tick faster as their distance from earth increases. That of course assumes a static universe, because the expansion of the universe would tend to cause the opposite time dilation effect, as is the proposal for the current big-bang explanation of the redshifts of galaxy light. The point is though that we only see redshifts, not blueshifts. So even if it was your model as you say you would need to explain how do we see redshifts in the Universe resulting from a gravitational effect from all the matter in the Universe when what you describe would, in fact, cause BLUESHIFTS not REDSHIFTS. And observations are the ultimate test.


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