Supernovas and the behavior of the universe

Barry Setterfield, September, 2015

There is evidence for an anomalous situation developing for some supernovae that have been used to determine distances in the early universe. This evidence comprises data relating to Type Ia supernovae and the resulting redshift/distance measurements.

A supernova essentially is an exploding star, and Type Ia supernovae were all meant to explode with a standard brightness, rather like light bulbs with a known wattage. Thus, when these Type Ia supernovae occur in very distant galaxies, their set brightness allows an accurate distance measurement to be made. In 1998, Saul Perlmutter examined data that measured the brightness of these stellar explosions at redshifts from about z = 0.83 to about z = 1.2. [1-6]. These explosions were about 20% fainter than expected. Their observed change in brightness by 0.2 magnitudes corresponds to a reduction in intensity by a factor of 1.2. This meant that they were further away than their redshift indicated by a factor of (√1.2 = 1.1). [7].

This disconcerting result spawned a number of explanations, but there were two which were predominant.  The first attributed the dimming of the light from these supernovae to the action of interstellar dust. The more distant they are, the fainter they should be compared with predictions from the redshift/distance relation. This (minority) approach was subsequently shown to be incorrect. In the meantime, the other (majority) interpretation was that these results could be accounted for if the Big Bang expansion rate was speeding up with time. Up until then, the majority of astronomers had accepted that the Big Bang expansion rate was gradually slowing under the action of gravity. However, if the integrity of Big Bang modeling was to be maintained, this new result could only be accounted for if cosmological expansion was speeding up. For this to occur, the action of “dark energy” was invoked.

But astronomers had hardly recovered from their surprise when a further shock came in 2001. Adam Riess had just examined the most distant Type Ia supernova yet discovered. It was at a redshift of z = 1.7 and was not fainter, but brighter than expected [8]. This meant that it was closer to us than the redshift/distance relationship indicated. This result was confirmed on 10 October 2003 when Riess announced that ten more distant supernovae were all brighter than expected [9-10]. Since dust can only make things dimmer, but never brighter, some other factor had to be the cause. At the same time, the Big Bang model also needed to be revised to account for the new data.

The explanation offered was that in the early universe with a redshift z > 1.5, expansion was indeed slowing under gravity. However, at about z = 1.5 the action of the cosmological constant became greater than the pull of gravity, and the expansion of the universe started to accelerate as a result of the action of this “dark energy.” But, as Science News Vol. 164:15 points out, science is not sure of the source of this energy. Furthermore, X-ray data from the European XMM satellite “leaves little room for dark energy” according to Alain Blanchard in a European Space Agency News Release 12 Dec. 2003.

These explanations assume one thing, namely that the relationship between redshift and distance is essentially the same as that given by the relativistic Doppler formula. However, what the observations may be showing is that this formula could be breaking down at large distances. If so, it would mean that this formula is not exact, but only an approximation to reality. This in turn suggests that the redshift may not be due to cosmological expansion at all, a point which is reinforced by the quantization of the redshift. This brings in the discussion about the origin of the redshift and its quantization. That topic is treated in detail in my paper presented at the Long Beach Conference of the NPA for 2010.

A fuller discussion occurs in the book Cosmology and the Zero Point Energy, chapter 5, which shows that the action of the Zero Point Energy (ZPE) is affecting atomic emitters throughout the universe. As the ZPE built up with time, atoms emitted progressively bluer light as atomic orbits became more energetic. This process allows for a whole family of curves, which have the same basic form as the relativistic Doppler formula, but have different exponents to the terms. An example given in the book, in Appendix A, is reproduced here:

redshift family

In this graph, the standard redshift Doppler formula is given by the blue line with another curve from the same family being the red line which goes up higher at the top, but comes in lower at the bottom. The vertical axis is the quantity (1 + z) where z is the redshift. The horizontal axis is distance out in the universe, starting with our own position as 0.0 on the bottom left hand corner and going out to the limits of the cosmos at the position of 1.0 on the right.  

From the red curve on this graph, it can be seen that it is possible for galaxies beyond a redshift of z = 1.0 to be closer in than expected, while for redshifts of less than 1.0 they can be further out than expected. From a study of supernovae, it should be possible to determine the precise value of the exponents in the general equation of that family of curves. In the above graph, the blue curve is the existing standard formula where Y = (1+z) = (1 + x)/[1 – (xa)]b  with a = 2 and b = ½. The red curve has Y = (1 + z) = 0.5 {(1 + x)/[1 – (xa)]b} + 0.5 where a = 2 and b = 3/2.

With the redshift explained by ZPE behavior and not universal expansion, the question arises as to how the cosmos has actually behaved over time. Hydrogen cloud data can be used to answer this question. These data indicate that the universe underwent initial expansion and then became static.  Let us take a moment to explain what is seen so this may be understood.

As light passes through the hydrogen clouds, selective wavelengths are absorbed and this produces a dark line on the spectrum. The dark line of importance here is called the Lyman Alpha line. As the light goes through an increasing number of hydrogen clouds on its journey, an increasing number of Lyman Alpha lines are built up in the spectrum. Since the clouds further away from our galaxy have greater redshifts, the position of the Lyman Alpha line on the color spectrum from an individual cloud will be dependent on distance and hence registered by its redshift. As a result of traveling great astronomical distances, light passing through these clouds will arrive at earth with a whole suite of lines. This is referred to as the 'Lyman Alpha forest.'

Analysis indicates that, if the universe is expanding, the average distance between the hydrogen clouds should be increasing as we come forward in time, and so nearer to our own galaxy. This means that as we look back into the past, and hence to greater redshifts, the clouds should get closer together. If the universe is static, the average distance apart of the clouds should remain fixed. A detailed study of this matter has been performed by Lyndon Ashmore. [11] The Abstract to one of his papers contains these conclusions:

"This paper examines the Lyman Alpha forest in order to determinethe average temperature and the average separation of Hydrogen clouds over the aging of the universe. A review of the literature shows that the clouds did once become further and further apart (showing expansion?) but are now evenly spaced (an indication of astatic universe?). ... Whilst these results do not support any cosmology individually, they do support one where the universe expanded in the past but that expansion has now been arrested and the universe is now static" [12].

So when did the universe stop expanding? The data reveal that expansion occurred from the origin of the cosmos up until a time corresponding to a redshift of z = 2.6. From then down to a time corresponding to z = 1.6 the expansion ceased and the cosmos  has been static from z = 1.6 down to the present. Narlikar and Arp established in 1993 that a static cosmos would be stable against collapse if it had matter in it and was undergoing slight oscillations [13].

Given this background of extensive research, it came as a shock to scientists and cosmologists in April of 2015 when a team of astronomers led by Dr. Peter Milne of Steward Observatory, Arizona, announced that supernovae of Type Ia came in two varieties not one. They had examined 23 Type 1a supernovas in the near ultra-violet as well as visible light. The ultra-violet observations were crucial as that is where the differences between the two varieties were sharply delineated. One variety had their UV peak shifted to the red side of the near UV spectrum, the other had it shifted to the blue side. The study showed that in the closer portions of the cosmos, some 70% of the Type Ia supernovas are of the red variety and somewhat dimmer than expected, while in the distant parts of the universe roughly 90% are of the blue variety and slightly brighter than expected.

However, this does not appear to account for all the difference in brilliance that had been observed. Dr. Peter Milne put it this way:

“Some of the reported acceleration of the Universe can be explained by color differences between the two groups of supernovae, leaving less acceleration than initially reported. This would, in turn, require less dark energy than currently assumed. Until our paper, the two populations of supernovae were treated as the same population. To get that final answer, you need to do all that work again, separately for the red and for the blue population.[14-15].

No matter what that “final answer” turns out to be, the current explanation from the Zero Point Energy still gives an answer which is in agreement with all the data. In contrast, the commonly accepted accelerating expansion model flies in the face of the hydrogen cloud data and the lack of independent evidence for the existence of “dark energy.”

1. S. Perlmutter, Berkeley Lab Research News, 17th December 1998 at:
2. S. Perlmutter, Berkeley Lab Research News, 17th December 1998 at:
3. S. Perlmutter et al. [Supernova Cosmology Project Collaboration], Nature 391:51 (1998),
4. S. Perlmutter et al. [Supernova Cosmology Project Collaboration], Astrophysical Journal, 517:565
(1999) [astro-ph/9812133].
5. B. P. Schmidt et al. [Hi-Z Supernova Team Collaboration], Astrophysical Journal, 507:46 (1998)
6. A. G. Riess et al. [Hi-Z Supernova Team Collaboration], Astronomical Journal, 116:1009 (1998)
7. M. Sawicki, article pre-print at: ArXiv:astro-ph/0208076, 3rd August 2002
8. A. G. Riess et al., Astrophysical Journal 560 (2001), pp.49-71.
9. Case Western Reserve University press release reporting on Adam Riess presentation at Future of Cosmology Conference at Clevelend Ohio available at:
10. D. Overbye report on Adam Riess conference presentation available at:
11. L. Ashmore, in F. Potter, Ed., 2nd Crisis in Cosmology Conference, CCC-2, ASP Conference Series 413: 3 (Proceedings of the Conference held 7-11 September 2008, at Port Angeles, Washington, USA, Astronomical
Society of the Pacific, San Francisco, 2009).
12. L. Ashmore, “An Explanation of Redshift in a Static Universe”, Proceedings of the NPA 7: 17-22 (Long Beach, CA, 2010).
13. J. Narliker and H. Arp, Astrophysical Journal, 405:51 (1993).