Answer by Barry Setterfield

One noted secular and brilliant astronomer who claimed there is a different way to interpret red shift was Halton Christian (Chip) Arp. He was born in New York City, USA, on March 21st 1927 and died, aged 86, in Munich, Germany on December 28th, 2013.

Regardless of what model is preferred, the fact remains that the farther out in space we look, the further back in time we are seeing. Thus, with the Steady State model, the universe should look the same at all distances while, with any expansion model, the cosmos should look a lot different the farther out we observe.

Quasars were discovered in 1963. These extremely brilliant objects appeared to be more brilliant the farther out we looked and became less bright with time, as we approached the ‘here and now’ of Earth. This would indicate the universe had indeed changed over time, presenting a challenge to the Steady State model which Arp supported. In fact, as more observations were made it became apparent that quasars appeared to be much more common at great distances, meaning in the early universe, than they are now. In comparison, galaxies that are close to us only seem to have quasar remnants in their cores. This definitely appeared to support those models with an early expansion and change over time.

However, Arp saw a possible weak link in those models since quasar distances are calculated from their redshifts. According to the standard formula used in the calculations, the larger the redshift of an astronomical object, the greater its assigned distance. The quasar redshifts were unusually large when compared with those of the much closer objects accessible to telescopes in the decades following the 1960’s.

In the 1960’s, no galaxy had been found with a red shift which would put it as far away as the brilliant quasars. But, with the superior instrumentation available today, it was discovered that if the light from any given quasar was blocked out, the surrounding fully-fledged galaxy emerged from the glare. Because these observations were not initially possible, Arp sought for other explanations for the problems presented by both the high redshifts and the identity of the quasars themselves.

The extreme brilliance of the quasars also troubled him; if they were truly at the distances assigned to them, they required an unknown mechanism to generate the enormous power needed to make them so luminous. If, however, their redshifts had another explanation, and the quasars were, instead, more local objects, they need not be exceptional power generators at all. It is on these three items that Arp concentrated his efforts in his later life: 1) what the quasars were, 2) the origin of their power output, and 3) the reasons why their redshifts might not be distance indicators. Let us briefly examine these items.

Arp had noted something unusual about quasar luminosity: the available data at that time seemed to indicate they were all of similar brightness when seen from earth, regardless of their redshifts. If the red shifts were due to something other than distance, then the similar luminosities of the quasars would mean they were all at a similar distance from Earth.

From these early observations, Arp concluded that several problems could be solved at once if the quasars were nearby objects, associated with our Local Supercluster of galaxies (which includes our small Local Group of galaxies and the other galaxy clusters out as far as the Virgo cluster). By considering them all relatively nearby, Arp could account for the similar brilliance of quasars. This also meant that there was no need for exotic physical processes to account for their intrinsic brilliance, which would be orders of magnitude less if they were “local” instead of far away.

In examining the photographic images of parts of the sky with quasars in the same field of view, Arp was struck by the number of quasars that appeared to be close to nearby galaxies. He was particularly interested in those instances where the galaxy showed unusual activity, such as having highly active cores or showing streamers of material seeming to be ejected from the galaxy. His catalogue of unusual galaxies highlighted this coincidental association. Arp theorized that this “line of sight” effect might indicate that quasar and galaxy were actually related. As technology advanced, he studied this effect in the later images, and more of these coincidences turned up. In a number of cases, lines of plasma filaments were found associated with the active galaxies, some of which apparently went in the direction of the quasar.

To boost his contention that these galaxies and line-of-sight quasars were actually related, Arp also examined photographs which recorded light intensity contours around galaxies and other objects. The light in the immediate area of the central object is quite bright. There comes a point at which this light is diminished enough by distance that a boundary between it and the next level of brightness is possible. This is your light contour. As you go away from an object or galaxy, the light intensity drops significantly and so the contours get further apart. Understanding that light contours are indicators of light intensity, it can be understood that an exceedingly bright distant object would, at some point distant from its center, have the same light intensity as a nearer, less bright object might have closer to itself. Thus, the two intensities would seem to be the same at some point if they were in the same field of view; they would appear to be overlapping.

This is what Arp was seeing. In the images of interest to Arp with quasars and galaxies in the same field of view, the light intensity of the galaxy drops off until eventually it is the same as the adjacent quasar. At that stage, the light intensity contour will include both the quasar and the galaxy. Thus the contours in the image suggested that the quasar and the galaxy were physically related.

Arp took these lines of evidence to suggest that the quasars had been ejected from their “host” galaxies. On this approach, each quasar was the young nuclei of a newly forming galaxy. Arp then theorized that the high redshifts were simply a reflection of the youth of these objects, and that, as they aged, the redshifts became lower. Arp proposed a mechanism whereby this might be possible, and pursued this line of enquiry until his passing.

Arp’s approach was vigorously resisted by establishment astronomers. Their position on the coincidental alignment of quasars and galaxies was summed up by Martin Rees, the well-known Cambridge astronomer who, in 1995 noted that “the universe is full of peculiar coincidences. As the number of observations increases, you expect to find more peculiar effects.” [Sky and Telescope January 1995 p. 12].

In contrast to Arp’s ideas, if redshifts were indicators of distances, then the higher the redshift number, the further away (and thus longer back in time) the object was. This meant the intrinsic brightness of the distant quasars indicated their activity must have been increasing with distance from Earth. To accept this observation at face value meant that the quasars must have become dimmer with time, as they appeared less brilliant the closer they were to Earth.

In actual fact, we are now able to observe that the cores of most nearby galaxies contain the remnants of what was once a quasar. Even our own Milky Way galaxy has what is described as a “super-massive black-hole” which sporadically has strong X-ray and gamma-ray emission. In addition, it has been found that there are polar jets of rapidly accelerated material coming out from the power-house of each distant quasar. Our Milky Way system itself shows the remains of these polar jets. [J. Matson, Scientific American, 1 June, 2012.] So this evidence indicates that there has indeed been a change with time in the power output of quasars.

Arp’s proposed scenario is also negated by several observations. A quick note of explanation is needed here: throughout space there have been found to be ‘clouds’ of free hydrogen. When light passes through one of these clouds, a mark is left in the signature of the light itself – a line appears at a particular place in the spectrograph when the light is analyzed. The more hydrogen clouds light has passed through, the more lines appear. These lines are referred to as the “Lyman alpha forest.”

Importantly, each quasar has a forest of lines in its spectrum which come from the hydrogen clouds its light has passed through on its way to earth. This Lyman alpha forest indicates that the light from high redshift quasars has passed through hundreds of clouds of hydrogen on its way to earth. This contrasts with the significantly fewer lines for quasars with low redshifts which indicate they might be closer.

This suggests that these high redshift quasars are indeed at great distances given the huge number of hydrogen clouds their light has passed through. Assuming that the high red shift quasars were actually nearby, presents a problem. It would be extremely difficult to get that number of clouds between any quasar and the earth. This is particularly the case since the light paths of other objects in same field of view, which are known to be relatively close, thus traversing essentially the same region of space, do not show evidence of these hydrogen clouds.

The second point is that when the glare of the quasar and its polar jets is blocked, the rest of the galaxy associated with that quasar usually comes into view. The light from the surrounding galaxy turns out to have been masked by the brilliance of the quasar and its polar jets in the core. This indicates we are not just dealing with “bare” quasars on their own, as it were, but rather with complete host galaxies whose existence was not suspected in the early days. If these objects really were in our own local area of space, there would be some very different gravitational and plasma dynamics to those which we actually observe.

However, these two negative points about Arp’s model for quasars leaves a basic problem unanswered: why does quasar brightness systematically increase with distance? Associated with this is another problem: quasars have huge polar jets of ionized matter. Big Bang proponents tend to skirt around those issues. They present the idea that in the early universe, black holes were more massive or had a greater supply of gas and dust to consume. The polar jets in the quasars, however, are more of a problem since Big Bang modeling has been unable to satisfactorily account for them via the ‘black-hole’ mechanism. (Indeed, just recently, Stephen Hawking has publically stated that a major component of black-hole modeling, namely the event horizon, does not exist. The implication is that the entire black hole scenario may be faulty and its use in accounting for quasars is thereby problematical.)

At this point, both Arp’s steady state model and the Big Bang model are confronted with problems they have no satisfactory answers for. This opens the door to possible alternatives. Since 99.9% of matter in the universe exists in the state of plasma, this might be considered a good starting point. Plasma has been called the 4th state of matter. There are solids, which when heated become liquids, and which then become gas when energized further. Finally, if a gas is heated or energized sufficiently so that it becomes ionized, with electrons stripped off the atoms, it has become plasma — a sort of ‘soup’ of positive ions and negative electrons. Examples of plasma include neon signs, flames, the auroras, lightning and the surface of the sun.

Plasmas usually form filaments, leaving voids in between. In fact, when the positions of galaxies are plotted on a map, it is seen that they form filamentary networks with voids in between. The reason is that any movement of ions or electrons in plasma constitutes a direct electric current, and every electric current has a circling magnetic field. This circling magnetic field constrains the plasma into its filamentary shapes. Anthony Peratt of Los Alamos National Laboratories experimented with plasma filaments in the lab and discovered that approaching filaments form a series of objects starting with miniature radio-galaxies and quasars and ending up with fully formed miniature galaxies of various types. Each miniature galaxy so formed is part of an electric circuit flowing in the plasma. [A. L. Peratt, Physics of the Plasma Universe, Springer-Verlag, 1991, pp. 115-120.]

For each of these miniature galaxies, the focus of the electric and magnetic fields is the galaxy center where the quasar forms. Since plasma filaments behave in the same way, regardless of scale, looking at the universe from a plasma perspective instead of a gravitational perspective might help us understand a number of things otherwise unexplainable. If the universe is primarily plasma, whose behavior is electrically and magnetically governed, then objects at the galaxy centers are acting under the forces of electricity and magnetism, not gravity.

Lab experiments reveal that the central object formed by interacting plasma filaments is essentially a spinning disk with a spherical plasmoid at its center where the electric and magnetic forces come to a focus. Polar jets are an integral feature of such objects since they carry ions and electrons out from the poles of the plasmoid as part of the electric circuit. Because the energy involved is electric and magnetic, not gravitational, the power output is significantly greater than for the theorized gravitational black holes. To gain some idea of the currents flowing in galactic circuits, the Dutch astronomer Gerrit Verschuur, in 1999, measured currents flowing in some gas clouds in the Milky Way, which were nowhere near its center. Nevertheless, they attained strengths up to ten thousand billion amperes. [1999 International Conference on Plasma Science, Monteray, California. Also G. Verschuur, Astrophysics and Space Science, 227 (1995], 187-198]. Those focused at the center would be stronger. The plasma model therefore gives a very logical answer to the origin of quasars. Inevitably, they will be connected by bridges of plasma filaments to the rest of the universe, in the same way that nearby galaxies are, so Arp was not entirely wrong there.

However, why should quasar brilliance be greater with distance? It is here that another recent development in physics becomes important. When the expansion of the universe occurred, energy was invested into the fabric of space in the same way that stretching a rubber band puts energy into its fabric. The potential energy of the stretching of the rubber band can become kinetic energy of motion when it is released. In a similar way, the energy of the stretching of the cosmos finally manifests as the electromagnetic Zero Point Energy (ZPE). As the stretching went on, the ZPE strength built up. Initially the strength of the ZPE was quite low. It can be shown that the electric and magnetic properties of the vacuum are dependent upon ZPE strength. Thus when the ZPE strength was low, it results in voltages that were intrinsically greater, stronger currents, and faster plasma interactions. [B.J. Setterfield, Proceedings of the Natural Philosophy Alliance, (18th Annual Conference of the NPA, July 2011) Vol. 8, pp.535-544].
Because of this low strength for the Zero Point Energy initially, the electric and magnetic interactions in the spinning disk and plasmoid at the center of each galaxy was greater, and hence their emitted light was more brilliant. As the ZPE built up over time with cosmic expansion, the activity became more subdued until it is what we see in our own galaxy today. In this way, plasma astronomy seems to supply an answer to the problems of the quasars themselves that constituted such a concern for Arp.
Finally the question about the redshift being a reliable distance indicator needs some discussion. Arp was instrumental in bringing to the fore the whole discussion about quantized redshifts. He, along with a number of others, pointed out that the observational evidence indicated that redshifts did not increase smoothly with distance. Rather, the redshift increased in a series of “jumps,” with the value attained at the jump being maintained until the next jump, rather like a series of steps. This observational development was vigorously opposed by many astronomers.

For these astronomers, the problem was that the redshift had been touted as an indication that the universe was expanding. This was done on the basis of it being a Doppler effect in which the pitch of a train-whistle or police siren drops as they pull away from you. A similar effect can be seen for light, so that the spectral lines emitted by the various elements are all systematically shifted towards the red end of the spectrum when an object is receding. Since the redshift was a universal phenomenon and the redshift was proven to become greater with distance, the suggestion was that this “Doppler shift” of light was proof that the cosmos was expanding.

The fly in the ointment was that, if the redshift increased in jumps, universal expansion could not be the cause of the redshift. The universe would not expand in jumps; rather it should do so smoothly. So the redshift on that approach should be a smooth function. There were further complications. William Tifft noted that bands of redshift went through the whole Coma cluster of galaxies. [W.G. Tifft, Astrophysical Journal, 211 (1977), pp.31 ff. Within each band, the redshift value was constant, but at the beginning of a new band, the redshift value underwent a jump. In fact, the change in redshift value went right through the middle of some galaxies. If the redshift was due to motion, the different speeds between the two halves of these galaxies would completely disrupt them. But they were not disrupting. This indicated that the Doppler recession idea for the cause of the redshift was incorrect.

There were other problems which Tifft, Arp, Guthrie and Napier, Burbidge, Hoyle, Narlikar and others also noted. With these and many other examples in mind, Arp felt confident his assertion that redshifts were not due to universal expansion was correct. Narlikar and Arp together pointed out in 1993 [Astrophysical Journal , Vol. 405, pp.51ff.] that a relatively static universe was stable against collapse as long as there was matter in it (which there is) and if it was oscillating (which measurements of some atomic constants indicate [B.J. Setterfield, Cosmology and the Zero Point Energy, NPA Monograph, 2013 No.1, pp.238-258).

However, Arp’s idea that the red shifts were not indicators of distance was incorrect. Interestingly, the idea that they are caused by a Doppler effect has also been shown to be incorrect. So there are problems with both models; what is going on?

The data require another model. This is where the plasma model becomes a valid alternative. Galaxy cores, rather than being some kind of ‘black hole’ actually exhibit the characteristics of plasmoids with their polar jets, just as we see in the lab. The behavior of galaxy arms is also identical to what is seen in labs when two or more plasma filaments are brought close enough to interact. What is needed at this point, however, is one more variable.

It is here that the Zero Point Energy enters the picture. The branch of physics which deals with a real physical ZPE is called Stochastic Electro-Dynamics or SED physics. In 1987, SED physicist Hal Puthoff published an important paper which demonstrated that the ZPE was responsible for maintaining atomic orbits right across the universe. According to classical electrodynamics, electrons whirling around an atomic nucleus should be radiating energy. As a result they should spiral into the nucleus and the whole atom should disappear in a flash of light. It does not do this; why? Hal Puthoff pointed out that the ZPE supplies energy to electrons, so that for stable orbits, the energy lost by the orbiting electron is equal to the energy it gained from the ZPE. Puthoff commented that without the ZPE, every atom in the universe would undergo instantaneous collapse. [H.E. Puthoff, Physical Review D, 35:10 (1987), pp.3266 ff].

To complete this picture, several other facts need be noted. First we have seen that the Zero Point Energy has increased with time in concert with universal expansion. Second, the energy fed into electron orbits by the ZPE is measured by the angular momentum of those orbits. As ZPE strength increased, angular momentum also increased, so any given orbit had more energy. However, since the orbit energy of electrons can only change in discrete jumps, the atom can only respond to these ZPE increases in jumps as well. Between these jumps, atomic orbit energies remain constant at the value attained at the last jump. These atomic orbit energies can be measured by the light they put out. The more energetic, the bluer the light. Conversely, the less energetic, the redder the light.

Light is produced by electrons. Electrons can be forced out of their proper positions in relation to the nuclei of atoms. Gammas rays, photons of light and other processes can do this. When that electron snaps back to its proper place, the energy is released as a photon of light. Because each element has a different number of electrons in its neutral state, there is a signature in the light emitted from any given atom identifying the element it is. This signature takes the form of a variety of lines which show up across the color spectrum, rather like a bar-code.

Given this, and given the fact that atomic responses to the increasing ZPE are in jumps, and not smooth increases, we can look at the red shift with a different perspective. The lower ZPE in the early years of the universe meant electron orbits had less energy than today. As the ZPE increased, light emitted from atoms, including their spectral lines, became bluer with time, but in jumps. However, as we look out further and further into space, we are looking progressively further back in time. So, in those earlier epochs, when the ZPE strength was lower, light emitted from atoms was redder. The further back in time we look, the redder the emitted light should be. And because atomic orbit energies only change in jumps, then the light emitted from all atoms should become redder in jumps. This is exactly what we see as the quantized redshift. It is related to distance, but has nothing to do with universal expansion. The observations of Arp and his colleagues coupled with the work of a number of SED physicists, including Puthoff, made this scientific development possible. Arp has therefore made valuable contributions to science.

For more information on the speed of light and ZPE see Barry Seterfield’s lecture The Decreasing Speed of Light. View here

Were you helped by this answer? If so, consider making a donation so we can keep adding more answers. Donate here.

About The Contributor