Halton Arp passed away on Saturday morning 28th December 2013 in Munich, Germany. He will be sorely missed by many but not so much by others because of his challenges to the ruling big bang paradigm.
With Geoffrey Burbidge and others, Professor Halton Arp was a thorn in the side of those who held to the standard story line of the big bang. In many papers and several books1 he promoted the idea that quasars are born from the nucleus of active galaxies—parent galaxies.
In the standard big bang model their very large redshifts are interpreted according to the Hubble Law to mean they are the most distant sources in the universe.
According to Arp’s alternative model, evidence strongly suggests that they are associated with relatively nearby active galaxies and that they have been ejected from those parent galaxies.
One extremely good example of this was reported in the Astrophysical Journal2 in 2004 where a quasar was found embedded in the galaxy NGC 7319 only 8 arc minutes from its centre. See figure 1. The arrow indicates the quasar.
This finding was presented by Margaret Burbidge at the January 2004 AAS meeting in Atlanta. The response, according to Halton Arp, was “overwhelming silence.” It was reported on the University of California, San Diego webpage (10 January 2005).3 The subtitle is “Can A ‘Distant’ Quasar Lie Within A Nearby Galaxy?”, extolling the riddle.
According to the Hubble law the galaxy NGC 7319, with a redshift of 0.022, is at a distance of about 360 million light-years. Assuming the Hubble Law holds for larger redshifts, the quasar, with a redshift one hundred times larger, must be about thirty times farther away, according to the dominant prevailing belief. Therefore these objects could not be physically connected to each other if this was true.
However, Arp has shown1 that there is a very strong case that quasars that lie close to active galaxies, on the sky, are, in fact, physically associated with those galaxies. That is, the closeness is not just a trick of the line of sight, where the quasars are millions or billions of light-years behind the galaxy and merely happen to be almost directly behind it from our point of view.
Arp (and others) have gone on to contend that the quasars have been ejected from the hearts of their parent galaxies.4 In 2012 Fulton and Arp in a study of tens of thousands of galaxies and quasars tested for the physical association of candidate companion quasars with putative parent galaxies and found an extremely high statistical correlation (> 50 sigma) when the ejection hypothesis and Karlsson periodicity in quasar redshifts are included.5
In the case of the galaxy NGC 7319 the quasar is not accidentally aligned due to a projection effect because it is seen interacting with gaseous material in the host galaxy. A very strong outflow of gas is detected consistent with the ejection of the quasar entraining material with it. And the outflow is projected out towards the observer. See figure 2.
The ejection-of-quasars-from-galaxies interpretation is vigorously rejected by the big bang community. Obviously this is because it utterly demolishes their key assumption of the genesis of all matter at the big bang. Also it calls into question many redshift-distances determined by quasar redshifts.
In the section ‘Alternatives to the big bang’ on page 393 of his book,6 Professor Joseph Silk admits,
“Only by disputing the interpretation of quasar redshifts as a cosmological distance indicator can this conclusion be avoided” [my emphasis added].
Silk means that if quasar redshifts do mean that they are reliable as distance indicators then the origin of all matter was in the big bang. Arp disputes this, and, in fact, it is the main thrust of Arp’s observations! They cast enormous doubt on the distribution of galaxies in the universe and the interpretation of big bang expansion models.7
P. Galianni, E. M. Burbidge, H. Arp, V. Junkkarinen, G. Burbidge, Stefano Zibetti, The discovery of a high redshift X-ray emitting QSO very close to the nucleus of NGC 7319, Ap. J. 620(1):88-94, 2004; preprint at arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0409215, v1, 9 Sep 2004. Return to text.
P. Galianni, E. M. Burbidge, H. Arp, V. Junkkarinen, G. Burbidge, Stefano Zibetti, The discovery of a high redshift X-ray emitting QSO very close to the nucleus of NGC 7319, Ap. J. 620(1):88-94, 2004; preprint at
C.C. Fulton and H.C. Arp, The 2dF redshift survey. I. Physical association and periodicity in quasar families, Ap J754:134-143, 2012.
Silk, J., The Big Bang, W.H. Freeman and Co., New York, 2000.
For the Christian, death is merely a minor inconvenience.....for the non-Christian....it is a terrifying and crushing experience.....full of dread anxiety and irreconcilable concerns;
to be caught dead without Christ is nothing short of a catastrophe !
Do Won M., Korea, Republic of, 31 December 2013
Even though I do not understand this article clearly because of my short knoweldge about 'Space Science'... I can definitely understand that scientists are so stubborn to accept new 'facts' while accepting their old 'theories'.... They are so stubborn to accept their faults and unknown discoveries... What a pity!
Victor B., Australia, 31 December 2013
While I am not a student of astronomy, (but I try to read widely) I do remember reading material on the Internet regarding Halton Arp's explanation of how the quasars seem physically linked and how this challenged the red shift interpretation of the quasars being farther away in terms of line of sight. Indeed his passing away is a loss to honest study of astronomy - but his observations cannot be ignored.
Pamela D., Australia, 31 December 2013
According to the information that I learned from my college astronomy class about the Big Bang theory, the quasar was 'shot out' of the first original galaxy, which was birthed from nothing. Only one other student besides myself supported a god as the originator of the universe (even though I was not a born-again Christian yet). Doesn't that seem more sensible a belief?
Dave L., United States, 31 December 2013
I seem to recall my astronomy professor in college telling us about Arp. His comment was, if I recall correctly, that he was out of step with the accepted views of big bang cosmology, but that he was very persuasive in the arguments he formulated. Dr. Hartnett, would you say that my prof was spot on in this regard?
John Hartnett responds
Arp was out of step with the ruling paradigm in astronomy, that is he did not accept the standard interpretation of redshifts especially for quasars. Arp was an excellent astronomer and very astute in observations of anomalies. So in those regards I would say your prof. was correct.
Randy S., United States, 31 December 2013
Your general reader would probably be helped if you would offer an explanation of how you can uphold the redshift of the galaxy NGC 7319 while denying the supposed redshift of the quasar seemingly imbedded in it. Otherwise, your general reader may feel justified in asking why the galaxy is not in fact at a redshift of z = 2.11, thus satisfying themselves that they have "solved" the dilemma. In short, which object is "correctly" redshifted - the galaxy at .022 or the quasar at 2.11? How do you know?
John Hartnett responds
The problem with cosmology and astrophysics is that they rely on astronomical observations, that really amount to only circumstantial evidence. We cannot interact with the universe so we cannot independently confirm anything. How do we know what the correct redshift of the galaxies and quasars are? That is the easy part. We simply measure them. Put a spectrascope on the source and make an observation. The next step is where the problems come in. What do those redshifts mean? How do we best interpret them? In an expanding universe they are attributed soley to expansion of the cosmos. What Arp and others have discovered are morphological observations that suggest that some high redshift quasars (which by the big bang interpretation are at great distances) are associated with low redshift galaxies. It is not actually necessary to know what causes redshift to show that there are anomalies in the standard redshift-distance interpretation. So it could well be that this is an unsolved mystery, but the measured redshifts are correct, that is one thing we do know for sure.
Jim C., United States, 1 January 2014
Speaking as an OEC and a big banger I know that Arp was done terribly wrong. Search GOOGLE NEWS and you will find no mention of Arp's passing. I have no reason to believe that Arp was among the faithful but his research led to an inevitable conclusion; there was no big bang. For this he was muzzled. He was effectively silenced and censored. He deserved better from his peers, they embarrassed the scientific method. Alan Sandage stood by him, along with the Burbidges but they were a minority. We are a poorer world without his maverick stance.
Daniel J., United States, 1 January 2014
Couldn't it be argued that most of the redshifts represent distances, while there are a couple 'flukes' that represent something other than distance, like the redshifts from the quasar you mentioned? In other words, does one redshift that doesn't identify with distance mean that every other redshift in existance doesn't identify with distance as well?
John Hartnett responds
Firstly one exception to a rule does bring the whole rule into doubt. That is how science works. But there are no such things as flukes. What could that possibly mean? Arp's evidence, for which the example above is only one of many, indicates that the redshifts measured for quasars are not distance related. This line of evidence is much more than just a few "flukes".
S. H., United Kingdom, 4 January 2014
Halton Christian Arp was a prime example of the tyranny that exists in science. Far from being an open-ended quest for knowledge following where the facts lead, it shores up the existing paradigm at whatever cost.
In astronomy, the existing paradigm is the so-called Big Bang theory. Arp's work, as this article makes clear, substantially undermined that theory. In response, he was told that unless he changed his line of research he would no longer be given telescope time at the prestigious Mount Palomar Observatory where he was a staff member.
Rightly and courageously, he stuck to his guns and was inevitably sacked. He found a new home at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics. It was a shameful episode for science.
Martin K., United States, 10 January 2014
I knew Chip Arp. He was one of the great influences of my life. I have no doubt that some day he will be proven right. Thank you for the kind article.
(The obit in Sky and Telescope was unfair and shameful.)
Terry D., Canada, 10 January 2014
'Belief' is a first principle of acceptance within groups, religious or otherwise; the term 'believer' has become a universal pejorative, implying and impugning resistance to real-world evidence.
The feedback loop created when "science, so called" circles the wagons to defend consensus positions must embarrass anyone, in any discipline, who has any integrity at all - yet the examples are many.
The lesson of Galileo is lost on those who most often appeal to its instructiveness.
Frances M., United Kingdom, 11 January 2014
My grateful thanks to CMI for publishing this great article (much of which I don't really understand, but I get the general message), and thanks to all the above contributors for their comments, all of which I agree with and am grateful to them for putting into words so eruditely that which I think too.
I am not an astrophysicist, but I remember being an atheistic, evolutionary pharmacologist, and truly believed that all scientists were pure followers of the 'scientific method', unbiasedly following where the data led. I was so shocked to find out how wrong I was when the Lord finally opened my eyes at my new birth and introducing me to the writings of Prof Wilder-Smith (now with the Lord). Thank you, all of you.