The distances to quasars

Mark 205

Figure 1: False colour image of Markarian 205, a peculiar galaxy imaged in X-rays, shown with several quasars enveloped within its hydrogen gas envelope. Credit: H. Arp, “Seeing Red”, Apeiron.

What can we say about the distances of quasars? This is an important question. According to standard big bang cosmology, due to cosmological expansion of the Universe, the very high redshifts of quasars place them at very great distances. If however even one example could be shown that contradicts the standard “greater the redshift the greater the distance” rule then it would undermine the fundamental foundation of the Standard Model of big bang cosmology. It follows that most of the very high redshift objects in the cosmos may not be so distant. And that would radically change our interpretation of the alleged big bang universe.

One such example that contradicts the Standard Model is shown in Fig. 1. The late Halton Arp spent his 60-year research career looking at peculiar galaxies, which he believed contradicted the standard big bang assumptions. Markarian 205 is such a peculiar galaxy within which are seen three quasars. Markarian 205 has a redshift of z = 0.07 but the quasars z = 1.26, 0.63 and 0.46. According to the Standard Model the high redshift quasars should be many billions of light-years behind Markarian 205, but they are clearly seen enveloped in the X-ray emitting hydrogen gas around the galaxy (as indicated by the white arrows).

Lyman-α forest

Arp’s hypothesis, that quasars and active galactic nuclei (AGNs1) have a very large intrinsic component to their redshifts, which is unrelated to their cosmic distance from Earth, is strongly rejected by the Standard Model (big bang) community. In relation to this question I received the following from a reader of my website.2

It is claimed, that the many lines of the Lyman alpha forest in the spectrum of most quasars prove that they are very far away. Also, it is claimed that increasing Lyman alpha forest lines is connected with increased magnitude of redshift, so supporting large distances. Is that observational true?

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Have Population III stars finally been discovered?

What are Population III stars? In short, the alleged story is as follows:

The super-hot big bang fireball produced only hydrogen (~75%), helium (~25%) and tiny traces of lithium. So the first stars to form (given the name Population III stars) could only form from these gases. Astronomers label all elements heavier than helium as ‘metals.’  Thus they call these type of stars extremely metal-poor. But each successive generation of stars, being formed from the products of supernova explosions of the generation of stars before them, which produced all the heavier elements, became more and more metal rich. The nuclear fusion within stars during their life produced the heavier elements, the ‘metals,’ like carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen, which were released into space when the stars exploded. During the actual explosion it is theorized that the very heaviest elements were produced also. Population III stars allegedly were the first stars formed just shortly after the big bang.

Until now (as claimed) these original stars have never be observed, hence they were nothing more than hypothetical. But their existence is a big bang prediction.

Population I, II and III stars

Astronomers classify stars into three types: Population I, II and III. Population II are those generation of stars, which allegedly formed from the Population III stars and have only a low metal content. Population I stars were allegedly the last to form, hence are the youngest and hottest stars and those with high metal content. Population I and II stars were historically first identified in our Galaxy. Population I stars are found predominantly in the spiral disk of the Galaxy and Population II stars are found above and below the disk. They have other distinguishing features also but their metal content is the major distinguishing feature.


Figure 1: A newly found galaxy called CR7 (seen here in an artist’s illustration) is the brightest yet known (considering its claimed distance) and may contain some of the oldest stars in the universe. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Those early-generation stars also first formed into small galaxies that later by merging with other galaxies grew larger, or so the story goes.1  Growth in galaxy size and in ‘metal’ content is called ‘galaxy evolution.’

The first generation of small galaxies was likely well in place 400 million years after the Big Bang. Following this initial phase of galaxy formation, galaxies then went through an extended phase of merging and coalescence with other galaxies, whereby they built up from masses of several thousand solar masses to billions of solar masses. This buildup process extended until the universe was roughly two billion years old. Then, due to some feedback process — now predominantly speculated to be AGN feedback — it is thought that this buildup process halted and gas accretion and star formation in the most massive galaxies halted and galaxies underwent a much different form of evolution. This later evolution continues to the present day.

This is the big bang evolution story, but it vitally needs those Population III stars or there is no story. Now it is claimed that Population III have been found in a very distant galaxy. Continue reading

The lecture: Starlight and time—Is it a brick wall for biblical creation?

The universe is truly vast; tens of billions of light-years in size. If the universe is only about 6000 years old how do we see galaxies at all, which are more than 6000 light-years away? This is the biblical creationist starlight travel time problem. I present 5 categories wherein potential solutions may be found. Besides the big bang also has a light travel time problem—the horizon problem—besides many other various problems.

Lecture was given August 1st 2015. See Age and Reason Seminar Adelaide for details.

See also other lectures given at the same seminar:

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Why is the night sky black?

Why does the night sky appear black? Why isn’t it white-hot? This is an important question.

When we look up on a moonless night, except for the small number of stars we can see with our unaided eyes (about 2500 at any one time), why is it so pitch black?  The answer may not be as obvious as you might think.


The blackness of space. Beth Scupham/flickr, CC BY-SA

The 19th century astronomer Olbers posed a paradox. If you imagine as you look out in space, even though galaxies and hence stars are great distances from each other, if space extends far enough, eventually every line of sight in every direction should finish on a star. If the Universe was infinite in size and filled with stars this would have to be the case. Thus why isn’t the night sky burning bright? Why isn’t it white-hot like the sun? Continue reading

The lecture: Development of an “old” universe in science

This lecture deals the historical philosophical development of the notion that the universe is very old. It outlines how worldviews have changed and developed that are intended to replace the biblical worldview with an atheistic humanist worldview. That has meant assuming long ages for the earth and the universe. It is shown how in reality it is a pagan worldview that has grown to dominate ‘so-called science’ today. It is not actually science but scientism. Evidence/observations do not speak for themselves, they must be interpreted and nowadays it is all within the big bang/evolution/”old” universe worldview.

Lecture was given August 1st 2015. See Age and Reason Seminar Adelaide for details.

See also other lectures given at the same seminar:

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An eternal quantum potential or an eternal Creator God

JGH1As a teenager I co-authored a book comparing the competing cosmologies in 1968. They were the Big Bang Theory (BBT) and the Steady State Theory (SST). Even though the discovery of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation provided a big boost to big bang theories at that time, I preferred the SST because it had no origin in time. You see, I was an atheist then and I reasoned that if the Universe had no beginning then it didn’t need a Creator and thus I had no God that I needed to obey.

The fact that the BBT has an origin in time—a unique past boundary—has been particularly vexing for the atheist believers in that cosmogony. Using various approaches the BB theorists have been trying to eliminate the beginning, by replacing the Creator with an eternal quantum potential, which existed for eternity past, and then 13.8 billion years ago exploded into the big bang universe, … or, so they say. For now though, they are stuck with the universal origin in a singularity, which in itself has led them to worshipping the Universe itself.

The explanation given in the Bible I now find so much more satisfying. Any cosmogony, which attempts to correctly describe real history, must be consistent with and follow not only the biblical time scale but also follow the sequence of events in the Genesis account. I present a very brief summary of a few biblical creationist models. These models acknowledge the eternal Creator God as the source of everything in the Universe.

An illustrated talk presented at the Creation Ministries International 2016 Creation SuperCamp at The Tops Conference Centre, NSW, 9:45 pm Wednesday January 6, 2016.

Video of Powerpoint presentation

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Changing-look quasars

— how do they fit into a biblical creationist model?

The quasar 3C 273, which resides in a giant elliptical galaxy in the constellation of Virgo.

Figure 1a: The quasar 3C 273, which resides in a giant elliptical galaxy in the constellation of Virgo. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Quasars are very high redshift astronomical objects with broad emission line (BEL) spectra. The latter is very different to that in the usual humdrum galaxies. This means the objects redshifts and BEL spectra can be used to identify them. And because of their high redshifts they are assumed to be very distant, very luminous active galaxies with super-massive black holes at their hearts, powering them to emit prodigious amounts of radiation over all wave-bands of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Figure 1b: Spectra of quasar 3C 273 compared to the star Vega. Spectral lines are shifted towards the red end of the spectrum, from which its distance is determined using the standard CDM cosmology.

Figure 1b: Spectra of quasar 3C 273 compared to the star Vega. Spectral lines are shifted towards the red end of the spectrum, from which its distance is determined using the standard LCDM cosmology.

Most of the high redshift objects in the universe are quasars. The redshifts of galaxies and quasars when interpreted within big bang cosmology—the greater the redshift the greater the distance—means that the most distant objects are seen at a time when the Universe was youngest.1

Following big bang thinking, quasars are then considered to be just galaxies in some early stage of development—back closer in time to the big bang—than the usual spiral and elliptical galaxies we might see with much lower redshifts. The quasar 3C 273, shown in Fig. 1a, the first to be identified (discovered in the early 1960s by astronomer Allan Sandage), has been shown to reside in a giant elliptical galaxy in the constellation of Virgo. According to standard cosmology its redshift puts it at a distance of 2.5 billion light-years from Earth. Continue reading