Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 35: Sep-Oct 1984

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











A Quick Quasar

Quasar 4C29.45 threatens to make quasars even harder to understand. Quasars have always appeared to emit too much energy for their size; that is, our present knowledge of physics does not provide us with a mechanism for generating such huge energy densities. Now, quasar 4C29.45 comes along and pulsates on time scales of 30 minutes and less. These pulsations are sharp and not spread out timewise, implying that quasar 4C29.45 must be smaller than 30 light-minutes in size -- otherwise the disturbance causing the pulsation would have to travel faster than light.

On the night of April 10, 1981, the situation (already bad) worsened, when brightness jumps of 0.2 magnitude occurred nearly instantaneously. Conclusion: quasar 4C29.45 may be only lightseconds in diameter, which should really by physically impossible. The anonymous author of this item ventures that:

"...since the real nature of quasars is unknown, it is uncertain how they can or cannot behave."

(Anonymous; "A Quick Quasar," Sky and Telescope, August 1984.)

Comment. Perhaps we have been naive in thinking that the laws of physics determined how things can and cannot behave. Evidently these laws are not as secure as we have been led to believe! Note in passing: the quasar impasse would be easier to bridge if quasars were very close instead of as distant as their redshifts demand. Of course, we wouldn't dare to scuttle the redshift/distance law and the expanding universe!

From Science Frontiers #35, SEP-OCT 1984. 1984-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987