The Horseheads of 3C 212: Splashes in a Cosmic Shell

I posted this back in 1999, and today (2015) it's still clear that the vertical (in this photo) radio components are associated to the optical components which are seen displaced further away from the central object. There may be a topological shear (unmodelled) which is affecting the optical angular displacements and redshifts in equal measure. The mechanism which I propose below is just one possible explanation. Certainly, however, this object should have been intensively studied since its discovery, instead of ignored as it has been. EWF

An entertaining paper by Alan Stockton and Susan Ridgeway is available at the arXiv preprint site. It is astro-ph/9801056, "Deep Spectroscopy in the Field of 3C 212". There are horses' heads in their sensational HST fig 1A, reproduced at right.

The quasar 3C 212 photo is shown overlaid with a green-tinted radio emission map. To the SE there is an optical feature nearly matched by a radio feature, but in the NW there is a brilliant horse-head-shaped radio emission which connects unbroken to the QSO with a long neck in between. Beyond this emission, further out from the QSO but in a perfect line with the QSO -radio horsehead axis, there is an optical horse's head, identical in every significant morphological way (i.e. they look just the same). Both radio & optical horseheads are revealed in the article to be close doublets, with one emission at the eye and another of the mouth of the horseheads.

Pretty spectacular correlated optical-radio feature isn't it? A triumph of HST photography and careful observation by the QSO master, Alan Stockton.

There's only one small rub. Alan Stockton says... ... that the horsehead features ... ...are ... not ...related. (pause for amazement and mirth).

Now that we've had our chuckle, we may wonder how Dr Stockton comes to this apparently most absurd conclusion. Well it's simple. The horses' heads are different redshifts!! The QSO and the radio horsehead are at z (redshift) = 1.049, while the optical horsehead is at z = 0.928.

You might think that in the presence of such a compelling association, some accomodation could be posited for the redshift difference. I mean come on guys, cut us some slack. The horseheads are associated objects beyond a shadow of a doubt!!

Now, I wish to express understanding for Alan Stockton's predicament. My first impression of the two horseheads was that they had a common source beyond any shadow of a doubt. And indeed, Stockton writes "... there appears to be nearly compelling morphological evidence for association rather than chance projection".  But as I considered this photo, and wondered about the mechanism that could have produced the optical horsehead beyond the radio horsehead, and as I continued to ponder, the association began to slip away from me.  Staring at the photo I began to think that perhaps it was just a coincidence, perhaps they are just unrelated superimposed images.  Just as, I am sure, Alan Stockton has stared at those images.  And then I came to my senses.

My friends, if you stare at anything for too long you begin to see things which are not there.  And in the case of the double horseheads, if you stare at the photo for too long, you'll begin to see non-associations which are not there.  There is no doubt, the horseheads are two sides of the *same* horsehead, and if the current cosmological model cannot accomodate that, then the model will just have to change.  Fred Hoyle has described the current state of cosmological thinking as "what is known to be impossible remains impossible no matter how strong the evidence for it may be".  When is this facade going to crack?

Some reflection shows us what is happening in this photo. The QSO 3C212 is surrounded by a spherical shell of material similar to rings seen around stars (which are spherical shells seen edge-on). It has ejected the doublet f & g along its polar axis. The horsehead f represents a significant amount of material, and left a radio trace of its emergence out of 3C212. When f and g reached the spherical shell they splashed through, leaving a radio signature on the shell. The horsehead f left a horsehead-shaped splash. The simple object g splashed through and has left simple ripples in the shell. Go on, look -- there are two ripples, indicating the spherical shell has two layers. Simple, really, once you see it.

So now it becomes clearer. The QSO 3C212 is at redshift z=1.049, f is at z=0.928, and so is hurtling toward us with radial speed of about z=0.121 (ignoring "instrinsic" redshift component, see below). The redshift of g has been measured at 1.054, so has a small radial speed away from us of z=0.005. There, now that wasn't so hard, was it? All we need to do it accept that redshift can stem from more than just cosmological distance. Three causes could be:

  • Cosmological distance, i.e. rate-of-time differentials over non-local distances.
  • Radial speed, i.e. away from or toward us.
  • Speculation: so-called "intrinsic" redshift, not modelled conventionally. Mechanism could be gravitational, dimensional, or an artefact of transmission. The horsehead images, adjacent to eachother, suggest refraction like a prism. If images can be offset, maybe redshift can be too.

Again, read the article.  Look at the HST photo.  And tally the evidence.  What do you believe, the concept, or the counterpoised image?