Abell Clusters: Would You Like
Them Here or There?
Telescopic images of Abell 1689
serve to separate the expanding
universe from the plasma universe.
(with apologies to Dr. Seuss and Sam)
The image above is a composite of
x-ray data (purple) from the Chandra
X-ray Observatory and optical data
(yellow) from the Hubble Space
Telescope. The data is first
processed by computers—a deliberate
activity—and then again by human
minds—an activity usually taken for
granted. Just as the first process
requires software, the second
requires theories. And different
theories, as different software,
produce different interpretations.
press release summarizes the expanding universe
interpretation. The cluster is “2.3 billion light years
away” and “massive.” It “shows signs of merging.”
“Hundred-million-degree gas” emits x-rays. The “long
arcs…are caused by
gravitational lensing of background galaxies.” The
cluster has “the largest system of such arcs ever found.”
Astronomer Halton Arp rejects
the expanding universe theory but retains the idea that
gravity is the principle force acting in the universe. He
"Are there other clusters of
galaxies which look like the cluster at the center of our
Local Supercluster, the Virgo Cluster? … Everyone believes
there are many—and 4,073 of them are listed in the revised
northern and southern Abell Catalogue. …
Everyone—myself included—thinks instinctively of galaxy
clusters as galaxies like our own seen at great distances."
But accumulating anomalies undermined Arp’s instinctive
Abell clusters have few normal galaxies. Most cluster
galaxies are peculiar or distorted; many are “just star
They tend to group around nearby active galaxies—just as
Quasi-stellar Objects (QSO) do.
Plus, they tend to occur in lines.
Plus, the lines are the same ones marked out by QSOs and
Plus, the clusters are often paired across the nearby
active galaxy with similar redshift values on each
side—again just like QSOs.
Cluster galaxies display no Hubble relationship. The
redshift-apparent magnitude relation for normal galaxies
is the basis for claiming a redshift-distance relation
and hence an expanding universe. The expected dispersion
is about 0.1 magnitude in brightness and 50 km/sec in
Doppler-interpreted redshift. Abell clusters show up to
4 magnitudes of variation in brightness (corresponding
to a variation in luminosity among member galaxies of 40
times) and up to 30,000 km/sec in velocities (requiring
them either to be exploding instead of merging or to be
stretched out over billions of light-years into
Fingers of God pointing at the Earth).
The x-ray radiation patterns around them show
elongations toward and bridges to nearby active
If the arcs were gravitationally lensed background QSOs,
their numbers should increase with fainter magnitude.
Instead, the numbers level off. A survey of the lensed
objects in this cluster whose redshifts have been
measured shows that most fall within redshifts of 1.0 to
3.5, with a maximum at 2.5. Only a handful fall around
Significantly, this cluster lies toward the
southeast end of x-ray and radio
filaments that twist through the
Arp, without ruling out
plasma discharge effects, thinks that
QSOs are ejected from active galactic nuclei. They gain
mass, slow down, and grow brighter as they age (and decline
stepwise in redshift) out to about 400 kiloparsecs (with
redshifts around 0.3). Here they often fragment into BL Lac
objects and start to fall back toward their parent galaxy.
They continue to gain mass and hence to slow down, reducing
their redshifts, as they become companions to the parent.
Therefore, Abell clusters are
not “galaxies like our own seen at great distances” but
small, immature galaxies and wisps of matter associated with
nearby active galaxies.
Plasma cosmologists, without
ruling out ejection effects, think QSOs and
clusters are pinches in the polar component of a
galactic circuit. There is little evidence that they move
(or don’t): The sequence of properties with respect to
distance from the active galaxy could be an effect of
decreasing electrical stress. Abell clusters are simply not
pinched as strongly or as coherently as QSOs.
Plasma pinches display both
radial and concentric filamentation: Whether the filaments
radiate in visible light depends on whether the current
density places them in
glow mode or dark mode discharge. The large number of
concentric arcs in this cluster are striking, but unremarked
are the number of galaxies whose disks are also aligned in
concentric arcs: their axes would be aligned radially to the
cluster’s center. Presumably, the galaxies are pinches in
the radial Birkeland currents connecting the arcs with the
center. Notably, some of these “arc aligned” galaxies are
double, calling to mind the fact that Birkeland currents
tend to pair up.
Many clusters show “radial
arcs,” a bit of data that contradicts gravitational lensing
theory but which theorists pass over as being “not fully
understood.” Ring currents connected to the central
electrode by a radial current are expected in plasma
discharges. Examples range from the
Dogleg Galaxy (NGC
1097) to the flux tube connecting Jupiter and the plasma
torus (read: ring current) in which the
satellite Io orbits.
Not only are the clusters
small and nearby, their galactic forms may not be
differentiated into stars: Whether the spiral morphology of
interacting Birkeland currents breaks up into smaller
pinches depends on the electrical properties of the
The circular morphology of
this cluster is likely due to our viewing it along its axis.
The Birkeland current (also called a field-aligned current)
in which it is pinched probably has an hourglass shape. We
see the concentric arcs and radial alignments because we are
looking “into the funnel.” From the side, it would appear
more like its smaller-scale cousin, the
planetary nebula. The
Bullet Cluster probably shows us the side view.
Needless to say, the x-rays
are not emitted by “hot gas” but by plasma, that is by
electrically accelerated electrons that spiral in the polar
magnetic field (hence the “field aligned current”) and emit
synchrotron radiation. The plasma may or may not be “hot,”
that is, contain particles that randomly collide.
In either case, Abell 1689 is
near, dim, not massive, and not merging.
By Mel Acheson