According to the most prominent naturalistic theory of origins, the universe began over 13 billion years ago in a "Big Bang" that flung matter, energy, and space outward.
But quasars near some of the most distant galaxies have posed a problem for this view. A new study showed that these objects, some of the brightest in the universe, cast even more darkness on astronomers' current understanding of starlight and time.
Quasars, or "quasi-stellar radio sources," are super-bright, massive, glowing objects that appear to be associated with black holes near galactic cores. Like many stars and galaxies, they are millions of light years away from earth. Light from these distant sources appears shifted toward the red, or low energy, end of the electromagnetic spectrum. This is interpreted to be caused by an expanding universe.1
In the early 1990s, eminent astronomer Halton Arp discovered a thick trail of glowing gas linking a galaxy named NGC 4319 to a nearby quasar. He noted a huge problem with this find--the galaxy's redshift indicated a distance of 107 million light years away, while its quasar's indicated 1.2 billion light years.2 If the degree of light redshift is truly caused by space expanding between earth and the light source, then the amount of redshift between these obviously connected glowing objects ought to be the same--not an order of magnitude different!
This discrepancy caused Arp and some astronomers to doubt the assumption that redshift--at least for quasars--is caused by an expanding universe. Other astronomers seem to have just ignored the contraindicating anomaly. Based on new research, however, they may have trouble continuing to disregard the contradictions.
In a study published online in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, astronomer Mike Hawkins at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh presented results from 900 quasars he observed over the last couple of decades. He found more problems presented by quasars to the standard cosmological model. For example, identical rhythmic light signatures were observed among two quasars, one with redshift showing it as 6 billion light years away, and another showing a 10 billion light year "distance." Physorg.com reported:
Even though the distant quasars were more strongly redshifted than the closer quasars, there was no difference in the time it took the light to reach Earth. This quasar conundrum doesn't seem to have an obvious explanation.3
If redshift is not a reliable indicator of quasar distances, then how reliable is it for other objects? What else could be causing the difference in degree of redshift, and would this alternative cause have implications for other cosmic phenomena? In addition, if the data are ambiguous about the distances to quasars, then science cannot be as sure of the time it took for quasar light to reach earth.
There are even more glaring observations that do not "seem to have an obvious explanation" in the current cosmological context. For example, astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson stated emphatically that "the universe was born 14 billion years ago,"4 yet this is not nearly enough time for light from separate regions of space to have crossed paths. According to the Big Bang model, in order for the temperature of space to be as remarkably even as it is, light must have intersected to have smoothed out its energy.5 This "Horizon Problem" has not been solved and is devastating to that model.6
Both the Horizon Problem and the anomalous quasar data reveal fundamental gaps in current astronomical understanding. Some of the basic, fundamental questions remain unanswered about the universe's structure, size, expansion dynamics, effects or causes of gravity, and the nature of light. And this precludes confident assertions about its age--if those assertions are based merely on today's observations and naturalistic assumptions.
For example, astronomer Hugh Ross recently stated, "Technological advance provides definitive data on the age of the universe and earth. There's simply no scientific basis for thinking that the universe and earth are not billions of years old."7 Investigating--not simply ignoring--observations like unexpected quasar light behavior and super-smooth cosmic temperatures shows that the data are only definitive in their defiance of mankind's overconfidence that science has solved the secrets of the universe--including its age.
Investigators may never be able to determine the universe's age based on natural parameters alone, but its age in earth terms has been clearly mapped out in the pages of Scripture, a document that carries the highest authority of divine authorship and veracity. And that authority, along with plenty of scientific evidence, points to a recent creation by an omniscient, omnipotent Creator.8
- Evolutionary cosmologists have extrapolated this expansion back in imaginary time to a Big Bang, but creation cosmologists point out that this may corroborate over a dozen Bible references to the Lord stretching out the heavens. See Humphreys, D. R. 2007. Creation Cosmologies Solve Spacecraft Mystery. Acts & Facts. 36 (10): 10.
- Arp, H., G. Burbidge and A. Hewitt. 1995. More on the galaxy-quasar connection. Sky and Telescope. 75 (8): 9.
- Zyga, L. Discovery that quasars don't show time dilation mystifies astronomers. PhysOrg. Posted on physorg.com April 9, 2010, reporting on research published in Hawkins, M. R. S. On time dilation in quasar light curves. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Published online in advance of print April 9, 2010.
- deGrasse Tyson, N. For the Love of Hubble. Parade, June 22, 2008.
- This use of "temperature" is unique. What has been measured is the blackbody radiation of the cosmos, which ought to be very irregular. Instead, it is measured at 2.7 degrees Kelvin whether near or far from galaxy-rich regions of space. See Gish, D. 1991.The Big Bang Theory Collapses. Acts & Facts. 20 (6).
- Coppedge, D. 2007. The Light-Distance Problem. Acts & Facts. 36 (6).
- Ross, H. 2009. More Than a Theory. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 17.
- Humphries, D. R. 2005. Evidence for a Young World. Acts & Facts. 34 (6).
Image credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Canalizo (University of California, Riverside)
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on April 29, 2010.