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Creation 37(1):50–51, January 2014

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‘Light from the big bang’ casts no shadows

If the big bang were true, the light from the fireball should cast shadows in the foreground of all galaxy clusters.


Update (2 March 2018)

I first made this argument in 2006 based on the work of Prof. Lieu and others. If the big bang were true, the light from the fireball should cast a shadow in the foreground of all galaxy clusters. However new research (Xiao, W., Chen, C., Zhang, B., Wu, Y., and Dai, M., Sunyaev—Zel’dovich effect or not? Detecting the main foreground effect of most galaxy clusters, MNRASL 432, L41–L45, 2013) has thrown this conclusion into doubt. Prof. Lieu at the time wrote “Either it [the microwave background] isn’t coming from behind the clusters, which means the Big Bang is blown away, or … there is something else going on.” As it turns out that “something else” is contamination of the expected shadowing by radio emissions from the galaxy clusters themselves.

Without anything to contradict this new result, and the analysis seems strong, one must entertain the possibility that the anomaly first found by Lieu et al in 2006 has been adequately explained. The problem of course is that astrophysics is not exactly operational science. At best this no-shadow argument is now equivocal and hence I suggest that it should no longer be used as an argument against the big bang hypothesis.

Figure 1: Temperature fluctuations of the all-sky projection of the CMB radiation, after a constant background equal to 2.725 K was subtracted. Darker spots represent cooler regions and brighter spots represent warmer regions. The central red region is radiation from the Galaxy, which needs to be removed before the supposed background radiation can be seen without foreground contamination.

One of the alleged ‘proofs’ of the big bang model of origins is said to be the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). The radiation was discovered in 1964 by Penzias and Wilson for which they won the Nobel prize in physics. Soon after their discovery, it was claimed that this radiation is the ‘afterglow’ of the original ‘explosion’ or fireball of the big bang. Since the time at which the radiation, which started as heat, was emitted from the fireball, the universe has allegedly expanded by a factor of 1,100. Thus, that ‘afterglow’ radiation has ‘cooled down’ to much longer wavelengths (‘stretched’ from the infrared to the microwave portion of the spectrum).1 These are detected by microwave telescopes today.

According to theory, the big bang fireball should be the most distant light source of all. Thus all galaxy clusters would be in the foreground of this source. Therefore all CMB radiation must pass the intervening galaxy clusters between the source and the observer, here on earth. This radiation passes through the intergalactic medium, between the galaxies in the clusters, and is scattered by electrons, through inverse Compton scattering,2 now known as the Sunyaev–Zel’dovich effect (SZE).3 When this happens, the path of the CMB radiation is interrupted and distorted.

In 2006 it was reported and published in the Astrophysical Journal4 that indeed there is strong evidence, out to at least one degree from the cluster centre, of an anomalous cooling effect. The anomaly was that the expected shadowing effect was not found when compared with what was expected from the SZE.5 The study looked for a shadow in the CMB radiation cast in the foreground of galaxy clusters, which must be closer to us than the alleged source of the background radiation. The study involved 31 galaxy clusters with a net result indicating that on average no systematic shadows were detected. In fact, the question was asked, Why are the clusters so relatively hot? Is there an additional source of emission that cancels out the expected shadow?

Figure 2: CMB radiation should cast a shadow in the foreground of galaxy clusters, but it does not.

The results were reported in ScienceDaily.com under the headline “Big Bang’s Afterglow Fails Intergalactic ‘Shadow’ Test”.6 A team of University of Alabama Huntsville scientists, led by Dr Richard Lieu, used data from NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) to scan the cosmic microwave background for shadows. Previous groups have made these sorts of studies but this was the first with WMAP data. Remember WMAP was designed specifically to detect the signature or echoes of the big bang. But … “Either it (the microwave background) isn’t coming from behind the clusters, which means the Big Bang is blown away, or … there is something else going on,” said Lieu.

More woes for a big bang history of the universe. And yet another problem for those who hang their Christian apologetics on the beliefs of ‘modern science’.7,8 Some of those who erroneously believe in big bang ‘creation’ tried to refute this claim but failed to even understand the basic physics involved.9

The interpretation of the observational evidence presented by Lieu et al. seems to be still unrefuted. This means that the source of the CMB must be local and not from the big bang. However, the worldview which incorporates belief in the big bang is dominant, and the SZE effect is now used to detect the presence of galaxy clusters. They are looked for in the CMB data from the latest Planck satellite operated by ESA. But if the SZE only yields a cooling effect in 25% of clusters, as was found in the Lieu et al. (2006) study, wouldn’t that mean they are going to miss detecting 75% of the clusters, all because of an erroneous worldview?

Lieu’s words resonate here:

“There is something else going on!”
Posted on homepage: 6 June 2016

References and notes

  1. In standard big bang cosmology, the big bang produced lots of protons and electrons, forming a plasma where the charged particles would be opaque to electronmagnetic radiation. After about 380,000 years, or a redshift (z) of 1,100, this plasma cooled enough to condense into hydrogen atoms, at around 3000 K (~2700°C, 5000°F). This would be transparent to electromagnetic radiation, which would be mostly infrared at that temperature (peaking at 966 nm). The current CMB is supposed to be the strongly redshifted afterglow, as the universe has cooled by a factor of 1,100. Return to text.
  2. Compton scattering means that a photon collides with an electron, imparting some energy to the electron which recoils, while another photon carrying the remaining energy (so a lower frequency) is emitted at an angle from the original so momentum is conserved. Inverse Compton scattering means that a very energetic electron loses energy, so the scattered photon has a higher energy and thus higher frequency. Return to text.
  3. Sunyaev [Сюня́ев], R.A. and Zel’dovich [Зельдо́вич], Y.B., Small-scale fluctuations of relic radiation, Astrophysics and Space Science 7:3–19, 1970. Return to text.
  4. Lieu, R., Mittaz, J.P.D. and Shuang-Nan Zhang, The Sunyaev–Zel’dovich effect in a sample of 31 clusters: A comparison between the x-ray predicted and WMAP observed Cosmic Microwave Background temperature decrement, Ap. J. 648:176–199, 1 September 2006. Return to text.
  5. However the expected cooling due to the shadowing effect of the galaxy cluster was found to be deficient by 100 µK. For example it might have been expected that the foreground cluster would cast a 150 µK shadow (i.e. would be cooler by this amount) but only 50 µK was observed. Return to text.
  6. Big Bang’s Afterglow Fails Intergalactic ‘Shadow’ Test, sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060905104549.htm, 12 September 2006. Return to text.
  7. Lerner, E., Bucking the big bang, New Scientist 182(2448)20, 22 May 2004. Return to text.
  8. Wieland, C., Secular scientists blast the big bang: What now for naïve apologetics? Creation 27(2):23–25, 2005; creation.com/big-bang-blast. Return to text.
  9. Hartnett, J.G., The big bang is not a Reason to Believe!, creation.com/big-bang-not-a-reason, 20 May 2014. Return to text.

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