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To “determine the Hubble constant” these six galaxy clusters are a subset of the 38 that scientists
 observed with Chandra, their distances said to range from 1.4 to 9.3 million light years from Earth.
Credit: NASA/CXC/MSFC/M.Bonamente et al.

Feb 09
, 2007
Expanding Uncertainty about the Hubble Constant

Attempts to measure the size, age, and “expansion” of the universe may be a good deal less precise than advertised. But the problem is much worse if the astronomers’ assumptions are incorrect.

An astronomer at Ohio State University, using a new method that is independent of the Hubble relation (which relates redshift to distance), has determined that the Hubble constant (the rate at which the universe is expanding) is 15% lower than the accepted value. His measurements have a margin of error of 6%.

Meanwhile, NASA astronomers, using another new method that is independent of the Hubble relation, have determined that the Hubble constant is 7% higher than the accepted value. Their measurements have a margin of error of 15%.

Because traditional astronomers never question traditional assumptions (and appear not to recognize they even have any), they cannot be expected to mention that their margin of erroneous assumption is somewhere around 500%. That, of course, can account for their two “more precise” determinations in exactly opposite directions. They are in the same position as the clockmaker who attempts to determine the exact time of day by measuring the position of the minute hand and fails to notice that the hour hand is missing. Without recognizing that plasma makes up 99% of the universe and that it has dominant electrical properties, astronomers inhabit a make-believe universe in which precise measurements can mean precisely opposite things.

The first astronomer studied a bright eclipsing binary star system in the nearby spiral galaxy M33. He measured with state-of-the-art instruments the stars’ orbital period and apparent brightness. He calculated the stars’ masses, and then their absolute luminosities, and then their distance. His result was 3 million light-years instead of the 2.6 million that had been accepted.

One can presume that his measurements were accurate, at least to within 6%. But the assumptions that he took for granted were entirely erroneous:

  • He assumed that gravity was the only force holding the stars in their orbits. Without this assumption, he would have been unable to calculate their masses. But in the past century, we discovered that the Law of Gravity loses its jurisdiction outside the Solar system: stellar jets and rings don’t obey it, globular clusters don’t obey it, galactic arms don’t obey it, galactic jets don’t obey it, galaxies in clusters don’t obey it. (To save their belief in the Law, astronomers had to imagine that the universe was composed mostly of invisible stuff—Dark Matter and Dark Energy.) A universe made of plasma will exhibit a variety of motions in addition to the “inverse square” force relationship that we call gravity.

  • He assumed that the mass–luminosity relationship was constant for all galaxies. Astronomer Halton Arp’s observational work indicates that luminosity may decline with increasing redshift. A plasma universe powers stars electrically from external sources, so luminosity is not restricted to the mass-dependent output of thermonuclear fusion.

  • He assumed that the “K effect” could be ignored. It’s been known since the early 1900s that the brightest stars (O and B spectral classes) have anomalous redshifts—if interpreted as a Doppler effect, they appear to be receding from Earth. In view of Arp’s finding mentioned above, bright stars may be less luminous than is assumed for their (gravity determined) mass, and hence calculations would overstate their distances.

NASA astronomers studied 38 compact galaxy clusters with the Chandra X-ray Telescope to “measure the precise X-ray properties of the [hot] gas” in them. They combined this with measurements from radio telescopes of the increase in energy of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation coming from the direction of the clusters. Then they used the Sunyaev–Zel'dovich effect, in which radiation gains energy from electrons in proportion to the electron density, temperature, and physical size of a region, to calculate the physical size of the clusters. After that, a simple trigonometry calculation gave them the distance. Dividing the redshift-determined speed of the cluster by the distance gave them the new Hubble constant.

"The reason this result is so significant is that we need the Hubble constant to tell us the size of the universe, its age, and how much matter it contains," said NASA's Max Bonamente, lead author of the paper describing the results. "Astronomers absolutely need to trust this number because we use it for countless calculations."

But again, the precise measurements were joined with precisely erroneous assumptions:

  • They assumed that the x-rays were produced by hot gas. What they actually measured was x-ray intensities, and they applied standard gas laws to calculate how hot a gas had to be to radiate those x-rays. Plugging this figure into the Sunyaev–Zel'dovich equations resulted in a number for physical size. But a gas that hot will be ionized: It will be a plasma. It will have electromagnetic effects. In fact, a plasma can have electromagnetic effects—in this case, radiate x-rays—even if it’s not hot: fast electrons will spiral in a magnetic field and give off synchrotron radiation. Space plasmas routinely develop double layers that accelerate electrons (and positive ions) to high speeds. It shouldn’t be surprising that most x-ray radiation is synchrotron radiation.

  • They assumed that the clusters were large, bright, and far away, and they were looking for some method to tell them how far. The observations of Halton Arp and others indicate that compact galactic clusters are small, faint “buckshot” ejections (rather than the “single shot” quasars) from nearby active galaxies. Like quasars, they are often paired across an active “parent” galaxy and may be enmeshed in radio-emitting and x-ray-emitting lobes of material coming from the parent galaxy.

  • They assumed that the CMB is coming from the farthest reaches of the universe, passes through the cluster, and is energized. In a plasma universe, ubiquitous Birkeland currents will absorb and re-radiate microwaves: The CMB is a local effect, a kind of electromagnetic fog. Enhancement of CMB in front of clusters is simply an additive effect, not Sunyaev–Zel'dovich.

  • They assumed that redshift was a Doppler effect, indicating velocity. Arp’s work (and others) demonstrates that galactic redshifts are mostly intrinsic: Galaxies with different redshifts are physically connected with bridges of luminous material, and the redshifts, when adjusted to the reference frame of the dominant galaxy, are periodic, occurring only at preferred values.

As Arp wrote in Seeing Red, "The greatest mistake in my opinion, and the one we continually make, is to let the theory guide the model. After a ridiculously long time it has finally dawned on me that establishment scientists actually proceed on the belief that theories tell you what is true and not true!"

Submitted by Mel Acheson

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