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back to article Quasar scrutineers use entire galaxy as telescope lens

A team of crafty astroboffins say they have managed to probe the guts of a quasar ten billion lightyears away - using nothing less than an entire galaxy as the main lens of their telescope. Multiple images of a quasar produced by foreground galaxy gravity lens The Einstein cross. Quasars, as any fule kno, are mysterious …

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Stop

So where's the pic then?

It would be good to see the subject matter of the article

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Anonymous Coward

Galactic mirrors

"such resolution would allow one to see a coin floating in space 13 times as far away as the Moon"

Maybe we could find a galaxy that acts as a mirror on the other side of the galactic lense? Or if space is truly curved, a big succession of them that loops back round on itself to get a hugely magnified view of your bum?

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As any fule kno

1. The consensus believes quasars lie at the fringes of the universe. A minority believes they are mostly much closer. There are some photos of quasars in the arms of galaxies. Swoon.

2. They are assumed to squirt out unfeasibly massive amounts of energy only because of their assumed remote distance.

3. Therefore you have to invoke incredibly mega-huge black holes only if they are very away, as there seems no other way to explain the energy requirement. And not everyone believes in black holes. In space anyway.

4. It's not because they are so very far away that it's difficult to get a proper look at them, but because they are point-like objects and morphologically undifferentiated.

5. They also have weird spectra which makes it difficult to work out exactly what's going on. Also astronomers get easily lost in the Lyman Forest. Lol.

6. Gravitational lensing was predicted to cause a ring of light, not discrete blobs, so it is not evidently gravitational lensing.

6. Any fule kno this story is years old. By fules for fules. I can only imagine the reason for it is the Fule Moon this last weekend.

What we want from Reg is jellyfish stories. Jellyfish the size of buses. Jellyfish the size of barn doors. Jellyfish the size of a planet. Jellyfish in Paris. Jellyfish getting up to no good. Especially in Paris. From under-sea-dogs who can thrill us with stories of live first-hand encounters, and have the missing bits to prove it. And a parrot on the shoulder. Dead or alive. Yay.

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Boffin

Wondered where that coin was

that I tossed up in the air, never to see it again. 13 times the distance of the moon eh, that was some chuck.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: As any fule kno

@Luther Bissett

"6. Gravitational lensing was predicted to cause a ring of light, not discrete blobs, so it is not evidently gravitational lensing."

That would depend on the relative location of the gravitational body and the paths of the photons involved, and the amount of lensing occurring.

Now, if you've got a distorted image, guess what? You can refocus it through an appropriate lens.

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Paris Hilton

re: As any fule kno

No, it either IS or IS NOT throwing out huge amounts of energy. Whether it does or not doesn't change based on distance.

Now the quasars have a redshift of ~10. This puts them a LOONG way away unless you have a theory that stands up to scrutiny that explains why the helium light is at ~500nm for stars in our galaxy but is waaay down into the deep IR for galaxies that are small but close.

Absent that, these galaxies are big but not orders of magnitude out and a LONG way away. Therefore the energy we DO get indicates a very bright source in the same way as knowing that the lighthouse is a long way away rather than at the end of your garden but still makes a shadow on the wall shows that the light is bright.

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@ Luther Blissett

I'm not sure I trust the ramblings of someone who ends a sentence with "lol".

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Pat
Paris Hilton

Unsporting Jacqui frowns on ten tackles.

Quote Luther = "Jellyfish in Paris. Jellyfish getting up to no good. Especially in Paris."

Steady, lad, steady; you're flirting with Jacqui's Extreme Porn Act!

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Paris Hilton

Someone explain redshifting

Despite doing astronomy as a bit-course at uni, I still don't understand red-shifting. I understand that it's redshifted because it's moving away from us, and also that the further away it is, the more it's redshifted.

BUT you surely only know how much redshifting has taken place if you know what 'colour' it used to be? Have we got some dude out by a quasar shouting "it's blue" but we say, "hang on, it's red"?

Help for the dimwit pls

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Dr Henri Boffin

There must be some kind of Register award due here for the magnificently appropriate name. Unless, of course, anyone can find a better example.

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So what's new exactly?

This sort of peering at things through galaxies used as gravitational lenses has been going on for a few years now.

So what's the new twist in this story? Or isn't there one?

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Anonymous Coward

@ Luther Blisset

You are a poor copy of amanAtMars or dare I say it Drashek...

YOU IS THE FULE AND YOU KNOW IT.

Accept that people better than you know what is going on and SHUT THE FECK UP...

That is all

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Coat

I for one...

Welcome our new gravitationally lensed overlords, regardless of how distorted they may be.

Coat....Door.... Pub

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Boffin

@"dimwit" AC

There are patterns of spectral lines in the light emited which can be matched with the patterns in our sun or other stars/galaxies. That effectively tells you where the light "started" before it was shifted - ie, whether it was blue or green etc originally. From that you can work out how much redshift has applied to the light and therefore how fast the object is moving.

The jump from speed to distance is a well established principle of the expanding universe, although there is always some argument as to the exact ratio of the relationship, which is called the Hubble Constant, and there are various models where this value is not constant for that matter, although I don't know of any mainstream ones where it is varying noticably over the lifetime of a human, for example, so it's "constantish" at least.

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Answering my own question...

Another candidate for appropriate naming goes to the FBI agent in charge of the investigation against warrantless wiretapping whistelblower Thomas Tamm in the US - his name is Jason Lawless

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Ben
Coat

@ AC

"Maybe we could find a galaxy that acts as a mirror on the other side of the galactic lense? Or if space is truly curved, a big succession of them that loops back round on itself to get a hugely magnified view of your bum?"

I think you're mistaken. That's actually Uranus you're looking at.

Mines the one with the gravitational pockets...

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Dead Vulture

@Jolyon Ralph

As for appropriate names, I liked officer Panton (pant-on, geddit?) who was dealing with the arrested at the last No Pants Day (basically, don't wear pants on the NY subway on some frigid morning), but that was last January I think (and possibly not on ElReg, shame!).

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@@Luther

"such resolution would allow one to see a coin floating in space 13 times as far away as the Moon"

From media reports, this is a one-sided coin. Luther merely points out there is at least one obverse side to every coin. Every narrative has several obverses. And Dark Matter dozens and dozens, last time I looked. Parallel Obverses all. (Lol - optional for Bryce).

@AC 16:18 >>>

> "6. Gravitational lensing was predicted to cause a ring of light, not discrete blobs, so it is not evidently gravitational lensing." <

That would depend on the relative location of the gravitational body and the paths of the photons involved, and the amount of lensing occurring. <<<

The blobs are dispersed symmetrically with respect to the putative black hole embedded presumably in the centre of the lensing galaxy.

@Mark >>> Now the quasars have a redshift of ~10. This puts them a LOONG way away unless you have a theory <<<

Correct but only if you assume red shift always signifies recessional velocity, and so remoteness. But can you prove a negative - that there is no other mechanism for red-shifting light? I have not seen any such proof. Alternate mechanism have been tendered.

@AC 17:24 >>> I understand that it's redshifted because it's moving away from us, and also that the further away it is, the more it's redshifted.<<<

Put like that it's circular logic that begs the question. That's not science.

>>> BUT you surely only know how much redshifting has taken place if you know what 'colour' it used to be? Have we got some dude out by a quasar shouting "it's blue" but we say, "hang on, it's red"? <<<

We start from the evidence of the observed spectrum, with often lots of lines in it. The lines can in many cases be patten-matched with the lines of spectra derived in controlled lab conditions, e.g known spectra of single elements in an incandescent state. The observed lines are in many cases noted to be displaced towards the red end of the spectrum. This displacement is compatible with Doppler's account of frequency shifting. Doppler's account is then a putative cause. It appears to be preferred because it was historically prior to other mechanisms for frequency shifting. Accepting the Doppler casual explanation commits you to huge recessional velocities and distances. Once you accept them, you need a Big Bang which caused them. The Big Bang is the idea of a Catholic priest (Lemaitre) - which is almightily suspicious. Thus we start from scientific observation and arrive by bandwagon at an entailed, but not necessarily entailed, metaphysics. I say - bring back proper scientific research. (Not computer modeling FFS).

But Doppler shift itself accounts for only some features of the spectral evidence. Other features, such as Zeeman splitting of lines, fuzzing of lines, and the chaotic plethora of lines known as the Lyman Forest, can only be explained by Doppler plus supposing very weird behaviour in the objects - weird enough to preclude consensus. Also, lines have been found corresponding to atoms in states and combinations which should not, if the narrative is supposed to be consistent, be Out There (so-called "forbidden" lines). Don't watch the hand, because the hand-waving is there to gloss over the "awkward" facts.

@AC 18:57 >>>You are a poor copy of amanAtMars<<<

Only by metaphorical logic - nothing scientific follows. AFAIK amfM is at least twice as big as any known troll and AIot Beta fun.

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Alternative explanation of "red shift"

First we have to accept some assumptions:

The velocity of light is constant.

Short wavelength light has more energy than long wavelength light.

I posit that light is affected by gravity (hence the bending of light around a massive object) and also by friction (forcing its way through dark matter and even not dark matter). The only way that this could show is if the light loses energy, but as the velocity is constant then the energy change would show as a red shift. Note that this would be a function of distance only, not of the velocity of the originating source.

Could this shown experimentally, the essence of good science? Possibly, in the case of friction. Create a long, straight, level pressure vessel. At one end place a laser and at the other a very accurate spectrophotometer. Evacuate the vessel, fire the laser and measure the wavelength of the light. Next fill the vessel with a mixture of hydrogen and helium, which I understand to be the main gases present in the universe. (There is a weakness here as the interstellar hydrogen is nascent hydrogen, not molecular hydrogen as we have on Earth.) Fire the laser again at increasing pressures to mimic greater and greater interstellar distances, and measure the wavelength of the incident light at each firing. If (big if) the wavelength lengthens (red shifts/loses energy) it would indicate that velocity of the originating source is not the only possible explanation of red shifting. Instead we would have a repeatable experimental indication that distance and not velocity is the/a cause of red shifting. The Doppler shift theory has, to my knowledge, never been experimentally verified, merely accepted as being the "thing".

Disclaimer:

I (not an astronomer) have never been happy with the "Big Bang" theory. It goes against the concepts of eternal and infinite. What was there before the big bang? What is there beyond the limits of the big bang? If the universe was relatively compacted at the time of the big bang was it small enough to create the mother of all black holes enclosing the entire universe, and as such are we still inside it?

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@Luther

>the chaotic plethora of lines known as the Lyman Forest

A) It's not chaotic.

B) That word "plethora", I don't think it means what you think it means.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Plethora

C) It's called the "Lyman alpha forest".

I'd be surprised that you didn't manage to work in the Gunn-Peterson trough, but it's obvious that you have a fairly limited perspective of the subject matter. Did you take a 2 unit astronomy class once? Or do you just frequent some of the more paranoid anti-science web sites?

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God's porch-light

OMG, that's not a Quasar at all.

It's Gods porch light, he must have left it on again.

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Coat

Using light as a measure of reality at a distance

Light is so flexible in its ability to be scattered, diffused, and outright bent, by anything with a gravitational field or magnetic field. Even if dark matter existed, it would only prove that any light reaching us from a long distance being used to accurately determine the form of the source would be like someone saying they can accurately read a sign at 100 meters with beer goggles on. Now we're learning that there really is no empty space, and dust, and even red dwarf stars surrounded by dust rendering them invisible in many cases, are so common that to still believe being able to "see the edge of the universe" seems very strange to me. The more we learn how complex the universe can be, it seems the scientists that study it are trying even harder to make their old theories truth, but hey, why break a trend for pop science. They need to justify their budget with provable things nowadays, not more questions :P Who would keep buying their books? Or funding them for that matter?

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Boffin

@luther

What does Zeeman splitting have to do with red-shifting/doppler effects at all?

"@AC 17:24 >>> I understand that it's redshifted because it's moving away from us, and also that the further away it is, the more it's redshifted.<<<

Put like that it's circular logic that begs the question. That's not science."

Not necessarily circular logic because it doesn't necessarily follow that just because movement away causes red-shifting that an increase in distance will increase the red-shift. The increase in red-shift is due to an increase in velocity and only observation tells us that recessional velocity increases with distance.

Oh, and as for Hubble's constant, the generally accepted theory doesn't have it as constant in the way that say pi is constant, but it is constant (across the universe) at any given time. It changes with time in a calculated (by GR i think) manner, but yes, across a human lifetime it's pretty static.

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An any fule kno

It takes publicity to get funding and this kind of story makes great press. Its only thanks to superb and expensive instruments such as the VLT that we are able to probe the universe such great depth.

I am of the opinion that our current theories about the large scale structure of the *verse are naively simplistic and more research is needed. Go Boffins!

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@Luther Blissett

As any fule kno the number after 6 is 7

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@ R Callan

I too have a problem with the big bang. I also have a problem with relative time, quantum physics and the north pole. What is north of the north pole? It goes against the concepts of cartesian co-ordinates, and I understand those so they must be correct.

Frankly I think it's a whitewash. Something must be done.

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Boffin

@R Callan

If you pass a laser through hydrogen at high enough pressure you do indeed measure a shift in the wavelength, this is not friction however but Raman shifting/scattering, however I seriously doubt the pressure of interstellar hydrogen is anywhere like sufficient for this to be a major effect. That said, it would be an experimental limitation as you wouldn't be able to just equate pressure with distance.

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Boffin

re: Someone explain redshifting

Hydrogen is the most common element in stars. There are only a limited set of ways for hydrogen to emit or absorb radiation from its electronic shell transitions. E.g. Hydrogen Alpha is an energy level shift that equates to a 650nm wavelength of light.

Similarly for helium or ionised oxygen (467nm).

They don't change.

So when you see the absorbtion spectra very deep and at the same relative position other absorbtion spectra such that the "fingerprint" of their ratios is what you would expect from a main sequence star, you know which one is the H-alpha line. And we know what that SHOULD be, and we know what it IS from that star/galaxy.

And it's shifted red.

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Boffin

@R Callan

But friction would take the light energy out and put it into dark matter.

Such friction would be even more evident with the friction between the planets and this dark matter.

So you have more warming of the dark matter (why don't we see it then?) and we would have a change in the motions of the planets (eventually spiraling in to the sun).

It's an idea but you have to forget to ask what the result you weren't looking for from that would be.

And, as such , you don't have an alternate explanation.

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