picture of the day
The excited hydrogen in this Spitzer Space Telescope image of
Stephan's Quintet suggests interactions that
should not be occurring under standard assumptions of astronomers.
more unified perspective will see the larger pattern. The entire group
is embedded in a radio lobe (a bridge of excited matter emitting radio
waves) from the active spiral NGC 7331 to the northeast (out of the
frame). An extension of this energetic lobe also encloses a group of
three galaxies on the opposite side of NGC 7331 that have redshifts
similar to the high-redshift members of Stephan's Quintet. (Those
familiar with Arp's observations will immediately recognize the pattern
as a pair of small-galaxy clusters primordially ejected from NGC 7331.)
Apr 19, 2006
Stephan’s Quintet Rekindles Controversy
New images of the clustered galaxies of Stephan's
Quintet suggest interactions that should not be taking place.
Astronomers have long assumed that one of the galaxies is far too close
to us to physically interact with the more "remote" members of the
Stephan's Quintet is a famous group of five galaxies discovered by
Edouard Stephan in 1877 at Marseille Observatory. Because the group is
tangled in filaments of matter from each other, astronomers assumed they
were near each other and were interacting. (For orientation, see the
overlay of ground-based and Hubble Space Telescope images
The cluster sparked a controversy in the '60s when Geoffrey and Margaret Burbridge
obtained spectra of the constituent galaxies. The galaxies'
shift toward red on the spectrum suggested (based on expanding-universe
assumptions) that all but one are receding from Earth at about the same
velocity (~6000 km/s). The 'discordant' galaxy (NGC 7320) is centered at
the bottom of the Hubble image. Its redshift suggests it is receding
much less rapidly (~800 km/s) and therefore must be considerably closer
to us. Astronomers such as the Burbidges and Halton Arp argued that the
discordant redshift of this galaxy invalidates the cornerstone of Big
Bang and expanding-universe cosmology: the assumption that redshift
gives a reliable basis for calculating velocity and deducing present
For many years the issue was
downplayed, but the contradictions couldn't be resolved.
Then, in the year 2000, based on images from the Hubble space telescope,
expanding-universe astronomers claimed individual stars could only be
seen in the 'close' galaxy, NGC 7320, thereby proving that NGC 7320 lay
in front of the four interacting background galaxies.
But this was not the end of the story. As can be seen in the Hubble
image (linked above), the 'close' galaxy does indeed show more details
than the cores of the other members of the group. But it is also
apparent that the resolution of NGC 7320 and the interaction debris
encircling the 'background galaxies' NGC 7318A and B reveal comparable
levels of detail and 'clumpiness'. This would argue strongly in favor of
the galaxies being sufficiently close to interact.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Stephan’s Quintet is the long
non-thermal radio-continuum structure lying in intergalactic space
between the galaxies. It is also visible in X-rays and UV, and recently
it was imaged in infrared by the Spitzer telescope and H-alpha emission.
The picture above is a composite. It clearly shows the giant arc-like
'shock wave' (in green from H-alpha emission) that astronomers interpret
as the effect of a collision between NGC 7318B and the rest of the
group. Of course, 'shock wave' is not the language that would be used by
plasma cosmologists or proponents of the Electric Universe.
The tantalizing image is the result of work by a team of scientists from
USA, Germany, and Australia, utilizing the super-sensitive infrared
spectrograph of the Spitzer Space Telescope. It detects the abundance of
excited hydrogen molecules emitting a distinctive type of radiation that
can be detected in the infrared. In standard cosmology, astronomers will
resort to the concept of mechanical shock to account for this excitement
of hydrogen in space; plasma cosmologists believe that electrical
interactions are a far more efficient explanation. The filamentary and
'dotted' structure indicates Birkeland currents and electrical activity,
as does the 'synchrotron' (non-thermal) radiation from charged particles
confined by magnetic fields and moving at velocities close to the speed
of light. Electric discharge is known to be the efficient means of
producing such energies.
"The strength of the emission and the fact that it shows the gas to be
highly disturbed was a huge surprise to us", said team leader Dr. Phil
Appleton. "We expected to see the spectral signature of dust grains —
but instead we saw an almost pure laboratory-like spectrum of hydrogen
molecules and almost nothing else. It was quite unlike anything we had
seen before in a galaxy system".
What is obvious from this image is that if the 'shock wave' means
dynamic interaction, then there are connections between the supposed
'intruder', NGC 7318B, (upper right), and both NGC 7319 (center left)
and NGC 7320 (lower left). But the supposed distance of NGC 7320 from
the others, based on assumptions about redshift, would preclude such
Indeed, many characteristics indicate that the galaxies of Stephan's
Quintet are interacting as a group. Both galaxies on the left (NGC 7319
and NGC 7320) have tails that swing off to the northeast (upper left).
(The tail on NGC 7320 requires a deep exposure to reveal it, as well
illustrated by professor Don Scott in his
discussion of NGC 7320
The 'mashed together' pair, NGC 7318A and B, which even conventional
astronomers admit are interacting, are themselves a 'discordant group'.
B, on the left, has a redshift velocity 1000 km/s lower than A. The
redshift-equals-distance assumption would place it in front of its
neighbor and safely out of interaction's way.
It is also worth noting that the galaxy NGC 7319 (upper left in the
image above) is the location of one of the most shocking challenges to
the standard view of redshift. In front of the galaxy's dense core lies
a quasar, an object whose redshift implies it should be more than 90
times farther away from us than the big galaxy behind it.
See Picture of the Day
What does all this mean? If the measuring stick (standard interpretation
of redshift) is flawed, so are the measurements and deductions that
follow. And to one degree or another that includes almost all the themes
of standard cosmology today. The redshift controversy is still very much
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of engineering Donald Scott systematically unravels the myths of the
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