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.
This entry was posted in Big Bang Models, Distance Measuring, Models, News, Observations Change Ideas, Redshift, Spectral Line and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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

Leave a Reply