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Diagram Credit: E. Margaret Burbidge, Geoffrey Burbidge, Halton C. Arp, and Stefano Zibetti
         Photo Credit: M. Westmoquette (UCL), J. Gallagher (U. Wisconsin-Madison), L. Smith (UCL), WIYN/NSF, HST, NASA/ESA


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Aug 02, 2004
Missing Quasars of M82

Astronomers take closer and closer pictures of the disturbed galaxy M82, trying to fathom what's happening (image on right.) Stars are forming ten times faster than stars in our Milky Way. Frequent explosions of the short-lived giant stars give the galaxy a disaster area appearance. The usual interpretation of these fireworks is that M82 suffered a near-collision with neighboring M81 about 100,000,000 years ago.

The region around M82 has been ignored. Nearer to M82 than M81 (as seen on the sky), but beyond the photo-frame of the close-up images lies a group of QSO's [quasars] as unusual as the galaxy itself (see star map on left.) But because the principle that redshift equals distance is one of the basic foundations of the big bang theory, these quasars appear to lie at various distances, all far beyond M82.

Margaret and Geoffrey Burbidge, Halton Arp and Stefano Zibetti disagree. In their 2003 paper, _QSO's associated with Messier 82_, they point out many reasons why this this group of quasars must be associated with M82, in spite of their incompatible redshifts.

The quasar group is too dense to be accidental. The average distribution of quasars in any direction is about 10 per square degree. In M82's immediate vicinity, there are already more than 60 quasars per square degree. There may be more yet: several addition quasar candidates are identified but not yet confirmed. Some of these lie within the body of M82.

The distribution of quasars within this group is not random. Nine quasars form a tight cone stretching to the SE of M82 (left and down on map above: star maps are drawn from an stargazer's perspective, standing on Earth, looking up. Thus, North is shown at the top, South at the bottom, East to the left and West to the right.) This SE group all lie in a neat cone that traces to a point at the center of M82. The group to the NNW of M82 are spread in a wide arc. There are no quasars or quasar candidates to the SW of the galaxy (although this blank area was included in the "quasars per square degree" calculations above.)

The quasars on the NNW side of the galaxy are brighter and bluer than those on the SE side. Their redshifts, on average, are lower. They are distributed in a wide arc rather than the tight cone of the SE group. All of these qualities lead to the conclusion that the quasars to the NNW are between us and M82, while the ones to the SE are strung out farther from us than M82. The fainter, redder appearance of the SE group is because their light must pass through the outer regions of the M82 en route to us. The lower redshift of the NNW quasars is because they are traveling toward us, making a blueshift, that is subtracted from their intrinsic high redshift.

To sum up: if these quasars belong to M82, then we need to rethink the connection between M82 and its neighbor M81. Rather than a cosmic accident, we're looking at a cosmic birth event. M81 is the parent and M82 the 100,000,000 year old offspring. The quasars in turn are the children of M82. And since this configuration contradicts the big bang theory's fundamental assumption that redshift equals distance, it is evidence that the universe is not expanding and there was no big bang.


David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
Amy Acheson
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