Redshift, a stretching of light waves known as a Doppler shift.

The redshift controversy - Comment on 2014 January 8

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As Dr. Arp’s colleagues lost patience with his quest, he was no longer invited to speak at major conferences, and his observing time on the mighty 200-inch telescope began to dry up. Warned in the early 1980s that his research program was unproductive, he refused to change course. Finally, he refused to submit a proposal at all on the grounds that everyone knew what he was doing. He got no time at all. Read more:

It is always interesting to read about a scientist who does not agree with his peers and how he is then treated by them.

Such stories are nice indicators how scientists think and act.

Here some extracts from a report I read today:

 

Halton C. Arp, astronomer who challenged Big Bang Theory, dies at 86

His dogged promotion of an unorthodox theory led to exile from his peers.

Halton C. Arp, a provocative son of American astronomy whose dogged insistence that astronomers had misread the distances to quasars cast doubt on the Big Bang theory of the universe and led to his exile from his peers and the telescopes he loved, died on Dec. 28 in Munich. He was 86.

In the expanding universe, as discovered by Edwin Hubble in 1929, everything is moving away from us. The farther away it is, the faster it is going, as revealed by its redshift, a stretching of light waves - like the changing tone of an ambulance siren as it goes past - known as a Doppler shift.

Dr. Arp found that galaxies with radically different redshifts, and thus at vastly different distances from us, often appeared connected by filaments and bridges of gas. This suggested, he said, that redshift was not always an indication of distance but could be caused by other, unknown physics.

The biggest redshifts belonged to quasars - brilliant, pointlike objects that are presumably at the edge of the universe. Dr. Arp found, however, that they were often suspiciously close in the sky to relatively nearby spiral galaxies. This suggested to him that quasars were not so far away after all, and that they might have shot out of the nearby galaxies.

If he was right, the whole picture of cosmic evolution given by the Big Bang - of a universe that began in a blaze of fire and gas 14 billion years ago and slowly condensed into stars, galaxies and creatures over the eons - would have to go out the window.

A vast majority of astronomers dismissed Dr. Arp’s results as coincidences or optical illusions. But his data appealed to a small, articulate band of astronomers who supported a rival theory of the universe called Steady State and had criticized the Big Bang over the decades. Among them were Fred Hoyle of Cambridge University, who had invented the theory, and Geoffrey Burbidge, a witty and acerbic astrophysicist at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Arp survived both of them.

“It is with reluctance that I come to the conclusion that the redshifts of some extragalactic objects are not due entirely to velocity causes,”¯ Dr. Arp wrote in a paper a year later.

He combed the sky for more evidence that redshifts were not ironclad indicators of cosmic distance, knowing that he was striking at the heart of modern cosmology.

The redshift controversy came to a boil in 1972

As Dr. Arp’s colleagues lost patience with his quest, he was no longer invited to speak at major conferences, and his observing time on the mighty 200-inch telescope began to dry up. Warned in the early 1980s that his research program was unproductive, he refused to change course. Finally, he refused to submit a proposal at all on the grounds that everyone knew what he was doing. He got no time at all.

He told his own side of the redshift story in a 1989 book, “Quasars, Redshifts and Controversies.”

 

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