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No. 35: Sep-Oct 1984

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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