Redshift is not related to distance!



For almost a century, the redshift of celestial objects has been used to measure their distance.   The accepted explanation for the observed redshift in the spectrum of celestial objects such as galaxies and quasars is the Doppler effect, which supposes that these objects are receding, in all directions, with increasing velocity as their distance increases. Known as the Hubble law, this has led to the concept of a big bang as the origin of the universe.  The Doppler interpretation has been almost universally accepted. Recent research has uncovered a new explanation for the observed redshift that has been completely overlooked.  It is found in the deflection of light by the intense gravitational fields of neutron stars, which not only creates redshifts unrelated to distance, but also creates optical illusions which are then taken to be redshifted celestial objects. Most of the redshifted celestial objects we observe may be just optical illusions. The universe may not be expanding and there probably never was a big bang.

Introduction – The Hubble Law

In the early part of the last century, Edwin Hubble discovered an apparent linear relationship between a shift in their spectrum toward the red (a redshift) and their apparent distance, as measured by the best techniques available at the time.  Although Hubble resisted explaining his discovery, the Doppler effect was soon selected as the cause of the redshift/distance relationship. The Doppler effect relates shifts in an object’s color to velocity This then implied that galaxies were receding at large velocities. in all directions, and the velocity of recession increased with distance. This relationship originally established by Hubble is known as the Hubble law, and is illustrated in the following figure.  The initial small sample of nebulae studied by Hubble has continually been expanded, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1- The initial relationship between redshift and distance found by Edwin Hubble. Each dot represents a nebula (galaxy).

Figure 2 -Expansion of the Hubble law by Hubble and Humason in 1931[i]

Note that this relationship was derived from averages of redshifts for clusters of galaxies, and not from individual galaxies. This relationship is also used to determine the distance to quasars, although there has never been an actual measurement of distance to any quasar. (from “The Velocity-Distance Relation among Extra-Galactic Nebula”, Edwin Hubble and Milton Humason, Astrophysical Journal, vol 24, p.43, 07/1931).

Hubble’s original discovery was the apparent relationship between redshift and distance for nebulae, now known to be faint galaxies. There arose two different possible explanations for this relationship.  One explanation put forth by noted astronomer Fritz Zwicky was the “tired light: effect, whereby light would gradually lose energy as it passed through space to reach our telescopes, and thus be redshifted. This idea was eventually discarded, since no reason could be identified to cause such an effect.  I personally pursued this effect as the cause of the redshift for decades, citing the Shapiro effect as the cause (see my latest book The Path Less Traveled, published in 2015.  See However, based on several chapters in my book I have a different explanation for the redshift, as presented below. It does not relate redshift to distance, and changes virtually everything astronomers have believed for nearly a century!

Neutron Stars

Neutron stars are the result of the collapse of ordinary stars whose source of fusion energy has been depleted. They are thought to be about 12 miles in diameter with masses1 to 3 times that of the sun.

Figure 3 – Artist’s depiction of a neutron star

Neutron stars are thought to be the source of pulsars, of which about 2,000 have been found.  Astronomers estimate that there are perhaps one million neutron stars within our galaxy.

One of the most interesting facets of neutron stars is their gravitational field. Since they have masses roughly equivalent to our sun and yet are extremely small, their surface gravity is about 200 billion times that on earth.  This intense gravitational field stretches far from the surface.  Light passing through this gravitational field will be deflected (bent) by a significant amount. This deflection will cause a loss of energy to a light ray, resulting in reduced luminosity and a redshift proportional to the strength of the gravitational field through which it passes. This redshift, which is due to the Shapiro effect, apparently has been completely overlooked by the astronomical community, and has enormous consequences, as discussed in the following sections.


Quasars are among the most enigmatic objects in the universe. Through a telescope they appear to be star-like, but their spectrum shows a large redshift.  If this redshift is interpreted as distance by the Hubble law they are extremely distant—billions of light years, and receding at velocities near that of light. Because some display short-term variability, they are known to be very small—perhaps as small as our solar system or even smaller. And yet for these objects to be seen billions of light years away they must emit as much light as entire galaxies. The source of such tremendous energy has remained a mystery for half a century.  Perhaps we can shed some new light on this quasar mystery.


Figure 4 -Typical quasars.  Note the star-like appearance.  They differ from ordinary star images only because of their redshift.

Deflection of light by a neutron star

It is well known that a light ray passing very near a neutron star is deflected by its intense gravitational field.  This is illustrated below:

Figure 5 - Deflection of light by a neutron star. The deflected light undergoes a reduction in luminosity and velocity, resulting in a redshift.

Light which is deflected by a large amount undergoes a transition.  This transition consists of three parts:

Deflection – The light ray will be deflected by the gravitational field of the neutron star.  This deflection could be quite large even at significant distance from the neutron star. Deflection of 30 degrees or more can be expected.

Loss in luminosity – The ray of light, after being deflected by a large amount, loses luminosity.  That is, it is not as bright as it was before being deflected.

Velocity reduction – As predicted by Einstein and proven through experiments with the Shapiro effect, the velocity of a light ray passing through a strong gravitation field is reduced.  For a light ray passing through the extremely strong gravitational field very near a neutron star, the velocity reduction is severe. When observed through our telescopes, this velocity reduction is seen as a loss of energy, resulting in a shift in the light toward the red portion of the spectrum (a redshift).  That is, light passing very close to a neutron star and deflected by its gravitational field is also redshifted!  The amount of deflection, redshift and loss of luminosity increases as the distance from the neutron star decreases (impact parameter). See Appendix A)

What happens with a light ray passing very near a neutron star is extremely interesting.  This is illustrated in the following figure:


Figure 6 Deflection of light from a bright distant star passing very close to a neutron star.  Note that the resultant light path has reduced luminosity and is redshifted by a large amount.

It is important to note that such a large deflection, and resultant loss in luminosity and redshift, only occurs if the light path is very close to the neutron star and passing through its intense gravitational field.  But the most interesting feature is how this light path would be seen through a telescope.  This is illustrated in the following figure:

Figure 7- When observed through a telescope, the deflected light path would appear to be a dim star with a high redshift -- a Quasar!  It would appear to be a very faint object with high redshift, presumably at great distance, but it is an optical illusion.

The actual light path, with its reduced luminosity and large redshift, would appear to be a dim distant star with a high redshift—a quasar!  It is actually an optical illusion! There is no object there.

Our current interpretation of what is seen through the telescope lens is a star-like object with a large redshift, interpreted with the Hubble law as being extremely distant.  In fact, the redshift is a local function caused by the gravitational field of the deflecting neutron star, and has nothing at all to do with distance.  In fact, there is not an object there at all!  And because there are a million neutron stars within our galaxy and many bright stars, the likelihood is that all quasars are optical illusions.

Some additional information may be useful.  For one, the same situation would apply to less luminous stars, suggesting that there are many very dim quasars in the cosmos, but too dim to be observed with our current technology.  A second observation is that such geometry easily explains the observed proper motion of some quasars.  Proper motion of either the originating star or deflecting neutron star would necessarily provide a false image which appears to have proper motion. Proper motion has been observed for a number of quasars, but is impossible if they are at their cosmological distances from the Hubble law!  This is very compelling evidence that the Hubble law does not apply to quasars.

A third consideration is radio-emitting quasars.  These would occur when the light path passes closest to the neutron star, where the velocity reduction of the light ray was highest, causing the light to be redshifted into the radio spectrum.

A fourth consideration is that it might be possible to associate quasar images with the corresponding initial bright star through correlated variability in luminosity. Such correlations have already been observed in certain circumstances which might corroborate our findings.  This has yet to be investigated.

Galaxies and Neutron Stars

It is well-known that most galaxies have large redshifts and are considered to be very distant.  However, there is a group of galaxies called the Local Group who have essentially no redshifts and are considered quite nearby.

The Local Group is the galaxy group that includes the Milky Way, and comprises more than 54 galaxies, most of them dwarf galaxies. Its gravitational center is located somewhere between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy. The two most massive members of the group are the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies. These two spiral galaxies each have a system of satellite galaxies.

The images of local galaxies, like stars, can be deflected by neutron stars.  However, since they are area images instead of point images, some special considerations apply.  The first is that various areas of the galaxy image will be deflected by different amounts, based on how far the individual star images pass near the neutron star.  The second factor, so far ignored in the previous sections, is that most neutron stars are rotating, and thus the gravitational field will be in flux and provide unpredictable results.  The net effect would be that an original galactic image such as a spiral galaxy would be distorted after deflection and appear completely different.   This is illustrated in the following figure:

Figure 8- Deflection of the image of a local galaxy by a neutron star.  The rotation of the neutron star gravitational field distorts the deflected image, which is an optical illusion. The deflection reduces the luminosity of the deflected image and creates a redshift.

Thus the image of a local galaxy, after being deflected by a neutron star, would appear quite different after the deflection, and would be quite dimmer and have a large redshift.  The current interpretation would be a faint distant galaxy with large redshift.  Instead it is simply an optical illusion. It is possible that most, or perhaps all of the distant galaxies we observe are optical illusions and that the myriad shapes evidenced by galaxies are the result of deflection by rotating neutron stars.

Deflection of a Supernova image by a Neutron star

 The 2011 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to Saul Perlmutter at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Brian Schmidt at the Australian National Lab and Adam Reiss at Johns Hopkins University for their discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe.  The award was granted for their work in identifying several Type 1A supernovas which appeared to be more distant than they should be based on their redshift and luminosity.  Their appearance suggested that very high redshift Type 1A supernova (z > 0.5) were further than they should be, leading to the conclusion that the expansion of the universe was accelerating.  The cause of this acceleration was attributed to something dubbed “dark energy”, which presumably comprises nearly 70% of the mass of the universe.

But the observations which led up to the conclusion that the expansion of the universe is accelerating can be explained in the same way as quasars can be explained—by the deflection of light from a supernova by a neutron star, as illustrated below:

Figure 9 -Illustrating how deflection of light from a supernova by a neutron star results in an optical illusion taken as a high-redshift supernova at a great distance.

Deflection of a supernova image by a neutron star would result in an optical illusion of a faint supernova with very high redshift, which is the same as observed by the three Nobel laureates.  Their interpretation is that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, and caused by the mysterious dark energy. The alternate explanation, illustrated above, does not require an acceleration of space, or dark energy.  As Occam’s razor[1] suggests, it is a much simpler solution to the observations.

The Hubble Law

It would appear that the images used by Hubble and others to establish a relationship between redshift and distance were most likely optical illusions as well.  With deflection by a neutron star, there is a strong inverse correlation between luminosity and redshift, exactly as found by Hubble. Thus there is no reason to relate redshift to distance, effectively nullifying the Hubble Law and an expanding universe. And without an expanding universe, there is no reason to believe there was ever a Big Bang.

Proper motion of stars and local galaxies 

A review of proper motion of Milky Way stars and local galaxies finds that none exceed 500 km/sec.  We may then assume that any celestial object with a velocity exceeding this amount (equivalent to z > .0017) is an optical illusion. Deflection of starlight, supernova and local galaxies by neutron stars can explain all of the high-redshift items observed in the heavens.  Using redshift as a measure of distance is not justified.


The intense gravitational field near neutron stars is capable of creating optical illusions which appear to have large redshifts, but the redshift is solely a local phenomenon, totally unrelated to distance.  We may summarize this article as follows:

·       Any celestial object with a redshift z > .0017 is an optical illusion.

·       Quasars, Galaxies and Supernova with a redshift are optical illusions

·       The Hubble law is not valid, and redshift of an object has nothing to do with distance.

·       The Universe is not expanding and there never was a Big Bang

·       The universe is not expanding or accelerating.  There is no “Dark Energy”

·       The Universe may be a far lonelier place than we currently think.  It probably is not populated by billions of galaxies—perhaps just a few.


Comments are welcome

Jerrold Thacker

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References   (My website)

The Velocity-Distance Relation among Extra-Galactic Nebula”, Edwin Hubble and Milton Humason, Astrophysical Journal, vol 24, p.43, 07/1931).

strong enough, this redshift could be very large.

[1] when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better

[i]The Velocity-Distance Relation among Extra-Galactic Nebula”, Edwin Hubble and Milton Humason, Astrophysical Journal, vol 24, p.43, 07/1931).