Oldest Spiral galaxy BX442 supports Hubble’s belief: Redshift does not mean expansion

(c) Copyright 2012 Louis Marmet

Q2343-BX442: A false color composite image of galaxy BX442 generated with data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. (Credit: David Law/Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics)

Q2343-BX442: A false color composite image of galaxy BX442 generated with data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. (Credit: David Law/Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics)

A team of astronomers have reported the discovery of the oldest spiral galaxy known so far. What makes this discovery interesting is that this grand-design spiral galaxy already existed 3 billion years after the Big Bang when the universe was too hot and chaotic to allow such a regular structure to survive long enough to be seen.

Usually, galaxies born this early after the Big Bang look clumpy and irregular. When the astronomers saw the regular spiral arms of this unusual galaxy, they studied it further with the Keck Observatory in Hawai’i. The results confirmed that grand-design spiral galaxies existed at a very early age of the universe.

The newly discovered galaxy, named Q2343-BX442, existed at a distance of 10.7 billion light years. The details of the discovery are reported in Nature[1]. The galaxy is one of 300 galaxies photographed in a survey carried out by the Hubble Space Telescope at a redshift near z=2. It has a redshift z=2.18 and is a well developed spiral galaxy. The disk of the galaxy is dynamically hot as inferred by the broad spectroscopic lines of the ionized gas. A small companion galaxy weighing only a few percent of the mass of BX442 is visible. It is proposed that the companion might have triggered the formation of a short-lived (100 million years) spiral structure.

A “grand-design spiral galaxy” is a type of galaxy with well-defined spiral arms. Grand-design spiral galaxies are relatively common in the local universe. However, theories of galaxy formation predict that the hot and chaotic conditions of the early universe prevent grand-design spirals to survive. This is because frequent collisions with other galaxies would destroy the fragile spiral structures. Moreover, the hot disk of BX442 implies that the structure is gravitationally unstable – the gases and stars are moving too fast to be held together by the gravity of the galaxy.

The spiral structure has therefore an uncertain origin. These characteristics are described as being “contrary to expectations” in the paper published in Nature. The structure of BX442 can only exist for a short time when produced by the unlikely interaction with another galaxy.

Galaxy Rotation Analysis

Galaxy Rotation Analysis: How symmetric is BX442? A simple photographic method can enhance the rotation symmetry of an object seen face-on using superimposed rotated copies of its image. If the object has a two-fold rotation symmetry, such as the two arms of BX442, the resulting image will appear clear when rotated by 180 degrees. a) The image of BX442 was corrected (using the measured inclination of 42 degrees[1]) to show the galaxy as it would look face-on. b) Superimposed images rotated by 180 degrees show the two arms of BX442. c) Superimposed images rotated by 120 degrees produce a blur – BX442 does not have three regularly spaced arms.


Standard cosmology interprets BX442 as a surprising observation since it is such a rare event. The very symmetric shape of BX442 seems to indicate that it is a very old galaxy.

All these surprises result from the cosmological redshift being interpreted as expansion of space. However, several interpretations of the cosmological redshift have been suggested in which there is no expansion. One of these, suggested by Zwicky in 1929, explains the redshift via a “tired-light” mechanism[2]. Although Zwicky’s mechanism was shown to be ineffective, recently proposed tired-light mechanisms involving an interaction of light with electrons[3] can explain the measured characteristics of BX442:

Broadened spectroscopic lines result from the quantization of the redshift mechanism. This is clearly explained by Ashmore in reference [4]. The apparent hot disk of BX442 is in reality a result of the broadening due to the statistical distribution of the number of photon-electron interactions. BX442 is a stable galaxy.

BX442-382f2cb Processed

The shape and velocity measurements of galaxy BX442 are consistent with a disk with an inclination of 42 degrees to the line of sight[1]. The image in Figure 1 was corrected to show the galaxy as it would look from a direction perpendicular to the disk. The resultant image was then added to itself, rotated by 180 degrees, then smoothed and processed to show intensity contours. Two arms clearly appear and a bar is almost visible, indicating that BX442 is a very old galaxy.

– The extinction of the light observed from distant galaxies is explained by Thomson scattering on electrons. Thomson scattering reduces the number of photons that reach the observer by scattering light away from the image of the galaxy. This process is independent of wavelength, giving the impression that the galaxies are farther than they really are. A good discussion of this is given by Brynjolfsson [5]. The galaxy BX442 is at a distance consistent with the magnitude-redshift equation, but the reason behind this agreement is not that space is expanding but instead that Thomson scattering on electrons produces extinction.

– The redshift is the result of a physical effect on light and does not mean expansion. Edwin Hubble maintained this position to the very end of his life[6]. At that time, he maintained that the redshift “represents a hitherto unrecognized principle of nature.” Today, physics has several explanations to offer involving an interaction of light with electrons.

Hubble was right, there is no expansion and the universe is much older than 14 billion years, old enough to form grand-design spiral galaxies 10.7 billion years ago.


[1] D.R. Law et al., “High velocity dispersion in a rare grand-design spiral galaxy at redshift z=2.18,” http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v487/n7407/full/nature11256.html
[2] D. Dilworth, “Tired Light, Glossary of Cosmology Principles,” http://www.cosmologyscience.com/glossary.htm#TiredLight
[3] L. Marmet, “On the Interpretation of Red-Shifts: A Quantitative Comparison of Red-Shift Mechanisms,” http://www.marmet.org/cosmology/redshift/mechanisms.pdf
[4] L. Ashmore, “Photon Redshift Spread,” http://web.archive.org/web/20160402150216/http://lyndonashmore.com/photon_redshift_spread.htm
[5] A. Brynjolfsson, “Redshift of photons penetrating a hot plasma,” http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0401420v3, p.44
[6] A. Sandage, “Edwin Hubble 1889-1953,” http://apod.nasa.gov/diamond_jubilee/1996/sandage_hubble.html

About Louis Marmet

Louis Marmet is a research scientist in experimental physics dedicated to precision spectroscopic measurements, quantum effects and fundamental physics. His background is in nonlinear optics and optical cooling. He works on developing atomic clocks to obtain a physical realization of the international SI second. He is currently improving on a primary time standard which does not lose or gain more than a millionth of a second in 5 years. His lifelong interest in physics, astronomy and mathematics and the philosophy of science taught by his father, Paul Marmet, are very important in his research.
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6 Responses to Oldest Spiral galaxy BX442 supports Hubble’s belief: Redshift does not mean expansion

  1. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    Um, this is ‘ideas below the minimum threshold for a scientific claim’. All alternate cosmologies to the standard cosmology has been rejected, that is why it is called the “standard”. (More precisely, it is a bayesian estimate of parameters in the only remaining LambdaCDM cosmology.)

    No one claims the universe at 3 billion years was “too hot and chaotic” for structure formation, we see clusters and galaxies after all. It was more a surprise that an early collision (that often makes spirals) could be seen, but there it is. It doesn’t stress observations, the abstract notes:

    “Here we report observations of the grand-design spiral galaxy Q2343-BX442 at z = 2.18. Spectroscopy of ionized gas shows that the disk is dynamically hot, implying an uncertain origin for the spiral structure. The kinematics of the galaxy are consistent with a thick disk undergoing a minor merger, which can drive the formation of short-lived spiral structure16, 17, 18. A duty cycle of <100 Myr for such tidally induced spiral structure in a hot massive disk is consistent with its rarity."

    So the kinematics implies a spiral structure, and the observed mechanism is consistent with cosmological observations.

    The only problem here was that you cherry picked a sentence out of context, and then used the cherry pick to build a strawman as an effigy for dead theories.

    • Louis Marmet says:

      Thank you Dr. Larsson for your response. Based on your comments, I made a few minor changes to the article in an attempt to clarify my message. Indeed, the spiral would have been a real problem if no companion galaxy had been detected. They saw another galaxy which explains the spiral structure.

      However, we seem to disagree on your statement that all alternate cosmologies to the standard cosmologies have been rejected. Your response ends with the affirmation that “tired-light” theories are dead. You must be thinking about Zwicky’s gravitational drag, or the Finlay-Freundlich hypothesis (photon-photon interaction), or Thomson/Compton scattering, or de Broglie’s tired-photon, or the Shelton head-on collisions on electrons, or the Raman effect, etc. Indeed these attempts have all failed.

      However, in reference [3] I give a long list of several alternate cosmologies and sixteen additional tired-light mechanisms which have not been disproved so far. Out of these, seven involve an interaction between photons and electrons. They are all good candidates for the reasons given at the end of the article above. Although kinematics imply a spiral structure, tired light models also imply the spiral structure of a grand-design galaxy.

  2. Chris J says:

    Nice article, clearly explained. Thanks Mr. Marmet.

    Pardon my bringing this up but the critique by Mr Larsson brings up fallacies by committing them.

    He wrote “All alternate cosmologies to the standard cosmology has been rejected”

    Thats a hasty generalization fallacy which is false for several reasons.

    First is the rule that science is inherently provisional, no facts are final, so no alternate cosmology has been finally rejected. Then there’s the problem that hundreds of papers and scientists reject Big Bang’s standard model as not fitting the evidence, so it is false to imply that everyone wholesale rejects alternate cosmologies, indeed without evidence – it is another fallacy to say anyone rejects something without evidence.

    And don’t forget Dilworth’s article exposing how none of the Big Bang or “Standard models” has a complete scientific definition, so he made a hypothesis application for Big Bang advocates. its on this website somewhere. As far as I know – no Big Bang researcher has completed one yet. Of course that makes Larsson’s appeal to the standard model an ambiguous fallacy.

    He also said that’s why its called the “standard {model}.” Isn’t that an appeal to authority fallacy and a burden of proof reversal fallacy ?

    • Louis Marmet says:

      Great comment Chris J! The supporters of the Big Bang have become so used to the theory that they don’t even want to question it. Let me give this analogy:

      My neighbour uses his bicycle to go to work. I live close enough to work to be able to walk there. After work, we both come back from the same direction, and at the same time. I take a quiet path and rarely see my neighbour passing me. However, I see many cyclists riding on the busy road and therefore my neighbour must be returning home that way. I can’t recognize him though, the road is too far from the quiet path, but he must be using it since he gets home a few minutes before me.

      So one day, I asked him why he avoided the quiet path to go home. His answer: “my wife gives me a ride most of the time.”

      In my mind, the rare events I witnessed (my neighbour passing me on his bicycle) justified my explanation that he was using the busy road the rest of the time! Fallacy! Rare events do not confirm a hypothesis in any way.

      The same fallacy is repeated in the paper by Law et al. They believe that because the rare event they observed (galaxy merger causing a spiral structure) is consistent with the kinematics of collisions and spiral formation, it supports a hot early universe! Fallacy! Their argument has no weight. Yes, their observation is consistent with the Big Bang, but it is also consistent with an interaction of light with electrons in a much older universe.

      What is sad in Dr. Larsson’s comment is that he dismissed alternative models without looking at them. Spectroscopy is the primary tool we have to study the universe, but astrophysicists are much more familiar with gravitation and particle physics than they are with low-energy light interactions.

  3. Moret-Bailly Jacques says:

    The plasma of hydrogen redshift propagates light, but the origin of the redshift is not the free electrons: if they are free, they cannot absorb energy. To what are they bound?
    – They may be bound to the set of all charges making the plasma. It is the case in the high atmosphere, but the order of magnitude of the wavelength must be of the order of magnitude of the ionized region, thus it cannot work for light.
    – They may be in atoms which must have a low frequency resonance to keep the conditions of coherence of the scattered light with the incident time-incoherent light: “Length of light pulses shorter than all involved time constants” (G. L. Lamb Jr.)

    It is fundamental that the theory works only with incoherent light because it is impossible to change locally the frequency of an infinite sine wave.

    • Louis Marmet says:

      Thank you Jacques for your response. Indeed, you are right in saying that free electrons do not absorb energy from an electromagnetic wave. However, this is strictly correct if the electromagnetic wave is a plane wave (or as you say: an infinite sine wave.) If a free electron is in a wave with an intensity gradient, it can absorb energy. This known as the ponderomotive force and has been measured experimentally with electrons in a standing wave (see “Observation of the Kapitza–Dirac effect,” Freimund, Aflatooni & Batelaan, Nature. 2001 Sept 13;413(6852):142-3). You can think of the electron bound to one plane wave while interacting with the other plane wave.

      Another reference which should interest you is the course given by Cohen-Tannoudji on light-matter interaction (in French)
      This also appears in his book “Processus d’interaction entre photons et atomes” which was translated into “Atom-Photon Interactions”. Explanations of the ponderomotive force, stimulated Thomson and Kapitza-Dirac effects are given in these references. The important point to notice is that the electromagnetic energy is redistributed from one light beam to the other via a stimulated process, but a small amount of energy is given to the electron. The electron recoil provides the moving medium which causes the redshift, the stimulated process ensures that the original light beam direction is preserved.

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