Chemical Sciences: A Manual for CSIR-UGC National Eligibility Test for Lectureship and JRF/Redshift

In physics (especially the physics of astronomical objects), redshift happens when light seen coming from an object is proportionally shifted to appear more red. Here, the term "redder" refers to what happens when visible light is shifted toward the red end of the visible spectrum. More generally, where an observer detects electromagnetic radiation outside the visible spectrum, "redder" amounts to a technical shorthand for "increase in electromagnetic wavelength" — which also implies lower frequency and photon energy in accord with, respectively, the wave and quantum theories of light.

Absorption lines in the optical spectrum of a supercluster of distant galaxies (right), as compared to absorption lines in the optical spectrum of the Sun (left). Arrows indicate redshift. Wavelength increases up towards the red and beyond (frequency decreases).

Redshifts are attributable to three different physical effects. The first discovered was the Doppler effect, familiar in the changes in the apparent pitches of sirens and frequency of the sound waves emitted by speeding vehicles; an observed redshift due to the Doppler effect occurs whenever a light source moves away from an observer. Cosmological redshift is seen due to the expansion of the universe, and sufficiently distant light sources (generally more than a few million light years away) show redshift corresponding to the rate of increase of their distance from Earth. Finally, gravitational redshifts are a relativistic effect observed in electromagnetic radiation moving out of gravitational fields. Conversely, a decrease in wavelength is called blue shift and is generally seen when a light-emitting object moves toward an observer or when electromagnetic radiation moves into a gravitational field.

Although observing redshifts and blue shifts have several terrestrial applications (e.g., Doppler radar and radar guns),[1] redshifts are most famously seen in the spectroscopic observations of astronomical objects.[2]

A special relativistic redshift formula (and its classical approximation) can be used to calculate the redshift of an object when spacetime is flat. However, many cases such as black holes and Big Bang cosmology require that redshifts be calculated using general relativity.[3] Special relativistic, gravitational, and cosmological redshifts can be understood under the umbrella of frame transformation laws. There exist other physical processes that can lead to a shift in the frequency of electromagnetic radiation, including scattering and optical effects; however, the resulting changes are distinguishable from true redshift and not generally referred as such. (See section on physical optics and radiative transfer).

Redshift and blue shift


The history of the subject began with the development in the 19th century of wave mechanics and the exploration of phenomena associated with the Doppler effect. The effect is named after Christian Andreas Doppler, who offered the first known physical explanation for the phenomenon in 1842.[4] The hypothesis was tested and confirmed for sound waves by the Dutch scientist Christoph Hendrik Diederik Buys Ballot in 1845.[5] Doppler correctly predicted that the phenomenon should apply to all waves, and in particular suggested that the varying colors of stars could be attributed to their motion with respect to the Earth.[6] While this attribution turned out to be incorrect (stellar colors are indicators of a star's temperature, not motion), Doppler would later be vindicated by verified redshift observations.

The first Doppler redshift was described in 1848 by French physicist Armand-Hippolyte-Louis Fizeau, who pointed to the shift in spectral lines seen in stars as being due to the Doppler effect. The effect is sometimes called the "Doppler-Fizeau effect". In 1868, British astronomer William Huggins was the first to determine the velocity of a star moving away from the Earth by this method.[7]

In 1871, optical redshift was confirmed when the phenomenon was observed in Fraunhofer lines using solar rotation, about 0.1 Å in the red.[8] In 1901 Aristarkh Belopolsky verified optical redshift in the laboratory using a system of rotating mirrors.[9]

The earliest occurrence of the term "red-shift" in print (in this hyphenated form), appears to be by American astronomer Walter S. Adams in 1908, where he mentions "Two methods of investigating that nature of the nebular red-shift".[10] The word doesn't appear unhyphenated, perhaps indicating a more common usage of its German equivalent, Rotverschiebung, until about 1934 by Willem de Sitter.[11]

Beginning with observations in 1912, Vesto Slipher discovered that most spiral nebulae had considerable redshifts.[12] Subsequently, Edwin Hubble discovered an approximate relationship between the redshift of such "nebulae" (now known to be galaxies in their own right) and the distance to them with the formulation of his eponymous Hubble's law.[13] These observations corroborated Alexander Friedman's 1922 work, in which he derived the famous Friedmann equations.[14] They are today considered strong evidence for an expanding universe and the Big Bang theory.[15]

Measurement, characterization, and interpretationEdit

The spectrum of light that comes from a single source (see idealized spectrum illustration top-right) can be measured. To determine the redshift, one searches for features in the spectrum such as absorption lines, emission lines, or other variations in light intensity. If found, these features can be compared with known features in the spectrum of various chemical compounds found in experiments where that compound is located on earth. A very common atomic element in space is hydrogen. The spectrum of originally featureless light shone through hydrogen will show a signature spectrum specific to hydrogen that has features at regular intervals. If restricted to absorption lines it would look similar to the illustration (top right). If the same pattern of intervals is seen in an observed spectrum from a distant source but occurring at shifted wavelengths, it can be identified as hydrogen too. If the same spectral line is identified in both spectra but at different wavelengths then the redshift can be calculated using the table below. Determining the redshift of an object in this way requires a frequency- or wavelength-range. In order to calculate the redshift one has to know the wavelength of the emitted light in the rest frame of the source, in other words, the wavelength that would be measured by an observer located adjacent to and comoving with the source. Since in astronomical applications this measurement cannot be done directly, because that would require travelling to the distant star of interest, the method using spectral lines described here is used instead. Redshifts cannot be calculated by looking at unidentified features whose rest-frame frequency is unknown, or with a spectrum that is featureless or white noise (random fluctuations in a spectrum).[16]

Redshift (and blue shift) may be characterized by the relative difference between the observed and emitted wavelengths (or frequency) of an object. In astronomy, it is customary to refer to this change using a dimensionless quantity called z. If λ represents wavelength and f represents frequency (note, λf = c where c is the speed of light), then z is defined by the equations:

Calculation of redshift,  
Based on wavelength Based on frequency

After z is measured, the distinction between redshift and blue shift is simply a matter of whether z is positive or negative. See the formulae section below for some basic interpretations that follow when either a redshift or blue shift is observed. For example, Doppler effect blue shifts (z < 0) are associated with objects approaching (moving closer to) the observer with the light shifting to greater energies. Conversely, Doppler effect redshifts (z > 0) are associated with objects receding (moving away) from the observer with the light shifting to lower energies. Likewise, gravitational blue shifts are associated with light emitted from a source residing within a weaker gravitational field observed within a stronger gravitational field, while gravitational redshifting implies the opposite conditions.

Redshift formulaeEdit

In general relativity one can derive several important special-case formulae for redshift in certain special spacetime geometries, as summarized in the following table. In all cases the magnitude of the shift (the value of z) is independent of the wavelength.[2]

Doppler effect, yellow (~575 nm wavelength) ball appears greenish (blueshift to ~565 nm wavelength) approaching observer, turns orange (redshift to ~585 nm wavelength) as it passes, and returns to yellow when motion stops. To observe such a change in color, the object would have to be traveling at approximately 5200 km/s, or about 75 times faster than the speed record for the fastest manmade space probe.
Redshift Summary
Redshift type Geometry Formula[17]
Relativistic Doppler Minkowski space (flat spacetime)  
(  for small  )
Cosmological redshift FLRW spacetime (expanding Big Bang universe)  
Gravitational redshift any stationary spacetime (e.g. the Schwarzschild geometry)  
(for the Schwarzschild geometry,  )

Doppler effectEdit

Main page: Doppler effect

If a source of the light is moving away from an observer, then redshift (z > 0) occurs; if the source moves towards the observer, then blue shift (z < 0) occurs. This is true for all electromagnetic waves and is explained by the Doppler effect. Consequently, this type of redshift is called the Doppler redshift. If the source moves away from the observer with velocity v, which is much less than the speed of light (v << c), the redshift is given by

      (Since  , see below)

where c is the speed of light. In the classical Doppler effect, the frequency of the source is not modified, but the recessional motion causes the illusion of a lower frequency.

Relativistic Doppler effectEdit

Main page: Relativistic Doppler effect

A more complete treatment of the Doppler redshift requires considering relativistic effects associated with motion of sources close to the speed of light. A complete derivation of the effect can be found in the article on the relativistic Doppler effect. In brief, objects moving close to the speed of light will experience deviations from the above formula due to the time dilation of special relativity which can be corrected for by introducing the Lorentz factor γ into the classical Doppler formula as follows:


This phenomenon was first observed in a 1938 experiment performed by Herbert E. Ives and G.R. Stilwell, called the Ives-Stilwell experiment.[18]

Since the Lorentz factor is dependent only on the magnitude of the velocity, this causes the redshift associated with the relativistic correction to be independent of the orientation of the source movement. In contrast, the classical part of the formula is dependent on the projection of the movement of the source into the line-of-sight which yields different results for different orientations. Consequently, for an object moving at an angle θ to the observer (zero angle is directly away from the observer), the full form for the relativistic Doppler effect becomes:


and for motion solely in the line of sight (θ = 0°), this equation reduces to:


For the special case that the source is moving at right angles (θ = 90°) to the detector, the relativistic redshift is known as the transverse redshift, and a redshift:


is measured, even though the object is not moving away from the observer. Even if the source is moving towards the observer, if there is a transverse component to the motion then there is some speed at which the dilation just cancels the expected blue shift and at higher speed the approaching source will be redshifted.[19]

Expansion of spaceEdit

Main page: Metric expansion of space

In the early part of the twentieth century, Slipher, Hubble and others made the first measurements of the redshifts and blue shifts of galaxies beyond the Milky Way. They initially interpreted these redshifts and blue shifts as due solely to the Doppler effect, but later Hubble discovered a rough correlation between the increasing redshifts and the increasing distance of galaxies. Theorists almost immediately realized that these observations could be explained by a different mechanism for producing redshifts. Hubble's law of the correlation between redshifts and distances is required by models of cosmology derived from general relativity that have a metric expansion of space.[15] As a result, photons propagating through the expanding space are stretched, creating the cosmological redshift.

Difference from a Doppler effectEdit

This differs from a Doppler-effect redshift because it is not a consequence of the speed of the source; instead, the photons increase in wavelength and redshift as the space through which they are traveling expands.[20]

In a universe in which space expands at an accelerating rate, the distance between remote galaxies will eventually increase at more than 3×108 m/s, but this does not imply that the galaxies themselves exceed the speed of light.

The red shift in cosmological modelsEdit

The observational consequences of this effect can be derived using the equations from general relativity that describe a homogeneous and isotropic universe.

To derive the redshift effect, use the geodesic equation for a light wave, which is



  •   is the Lorentzian line element
  •   is the time interval
  •   is the spatial interval
  •   is the speed of light
  •   is the time-dependent cosmic scale factor or Robertson-Walker scale factor
  •   is the curvature per unit area.

For an observer observing the crest of a light wave at a position   and time  , the crest of the light wave was emitted at a time   in the past and a distant position  . Integrating over the path in both space and time that the light wave travels yields:


In general, the wavelength of light is not the same for the two positions and times considered due to the changing properties of the metric. When the wave was emitted, it had a wavelength  . The next crest of the light wave was emitted at a time


The observer sees the next crest of the observed light wave with a wavelength   to arrive at a time


Since the subsequent crest is again emitted from   and is observed at  , the following equation can be written:


The right-hand side of the two integral equations above are identical which means


or, alternatively,


For very small variations in time (over the period of one cycle of a light wave) the scale factor is essentially a constant (  today and   previously). This yields


which can be rewritten as


Using the definition of redshift provided above, the equation


is obtained. In an expanding universe such as the one we inhabit, the scale factor is monotonically increasing as time passes, thus, z is positive and distant galaxies appear redshifted.

Using a model of the expansion of the universe, redshift can be related to the age of an observed object, the so-called cosmic time–redshift relation. Denote a density ratio as Ω0:

Two different sources of redshift: Top, Doppler shift: the star moving to the left emits light that is blue shifted in the direction of the receiving antenna that the star approaches, and red shifted in the direction of the receiving antenna that the star is leaving. Center and bottom panels: cosmological expansion: The distance between the emitting star and both antennas increases while the light is propagating, increasing the wavelength of the light seen by both antennas. Each panel shows the propagation of light over two periods: in the center panel at time of emission the wavelength is short, and in the bottom panel at time of reception the wavelength has stretched with the expansion of space. Patterned after Koupelis & Kuhn.[21] The reader is cautioned that too literal an interpretation of this figure can be misleading.[22] In particular, the Doppler shift panel is seen from a single inertial frame, that of the two antennas. The cosmological expansion panels are a concatenation of local inertial frames spanning the space between the various locally stationary objects.[23]

with ρcrit the critical density demarcating a universe that eventually crunches from one that simply expands. This density is about three hydrogen atoms per thousand liters of space.[24] At large redshifts one finds:


where H0 = present-day Hubble constant, and z = redshift.[25][26][27]

Cosmological and Doppler red shiftsEdit

For cosmological redshifts of z < 0.01 the effects of spacetime expansion are minimal and cosmological redshifts can be dominated by additional Doppler redshifts and blue shifts caused by the peculiar motions of the galaxies relative to one another.[28] The difference between physical velocity and space expansion can be illustrated by the Expanding Rubber Sheet Universe, a common cosmological analogy used to describe the expansion of space. If two objects are represented by ball bearings and spacetime by a stretching rubber sheet, the Doppler effect is caused by rolling the balls across the sheet to create peculiar motion. The cosmological redshift occurs when the ball bearings are stuck to the sheet and the sheet is stretched.

The redshifts of galaxies include both a component related to recessional velocity from expansion of the universe, and a component related to peculiar motion (Doppler shift). The redshift due to expansion of the universe depends upon the recessional velocity in a fashion determined by the cosmological model chosen to describe the expansion of the universe, which is very different from how Doppler redshift depends upon local velocity. Harrison provides a summary of this and related distinctions.[29] Describing the cosmological expansion origin of redshift, Harrison says: “Light leaves a galaxy, which is stationary in its local region of space, and is eventually received by observers who are stationary in their own local region of space. Between the galaxy and the observer, light travels through vast regions of expanding space. As a result, all wavelengths of the light are stretched by the expansion of space. It is as simple as that.” See Harrison, p. 315.[20] “The increase of wavelength from emission to absorption of light does not depend on the rate of change of a(t) [here a(t) is the Robertson-Walker scale factor] at the times of emission or absorption, but on the increase of a(t) in the whole period from emission to absorption.”[30]

Nonetheless, popular literature often uses the expression "Doppler redshift" instead of "cosmological redshift" to describe the redshift of galaxies dominated by the expansion of spacetime, despite the fact that the redshift is not found using the relativistic Doppler equation.[31] In particular, Doppler redshift is bound by special relativity; thus v > c is impossible while, in contrast, v > c is possible for cosmological redshift because the space which separates the objects (for example, a quasar from the Earth) can expand faster than the speed of light.[32] More mathematically, the viewpoint that "distant galaxies are receding" and the viewpoint that "the space between galaxies is expanding" are related by changing coordinate systems. Expressing this precisely requires working with the mathematics of the Friedmann-Robertson-Walker metric.[33]

Blue shift in a contracting universeEdit

If the universe were contracting instead of expanding, we would see distant galaxies blue shifted by an amount proportional to their distance instead of redshifted.[34]

Gravitational redshiftEdit

Main page: Gravitational redshift

In the theory of general relativity, there is time dilation within a gravitational well. This is known as the gravitational redshift or Einstein Shift.[35] The theoretical derivation of this effect follows from the Schwarzschild solution of the Einstein equations which yields the following formula for redshift associated with a photon traveling in the gravitational field of an uncharged, nonrotating, spherically symmetric mass:



  •   is the gravitational constant,
  •   is the mass of the object creating the gravitational field,
  •   is the radial coordinate of the source (which is analogous to the classical distance from the center of the object, but is actually a Schwarzschild coordinate), and
  •   is the speed of light.

This gravitational redshift result can be derived from the assumptions of special relativity and the equivalence principle; the full theory of general relativity is not required.[36]

The effect is very small but measurable on Earth using the Mössbauer effect and was first observed in the Pound-Rebka experiment.[37] However, it is significant near a black hole, and as an object approaches the event horizon the red shift becomes infinite. It is also the dominant cause of large angular-scale temperature fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background radiation (see Sachs-Wolfe effect).[38]

Observations in astronomyEdit

The redshift observed in astronomy can be measured because the emission and absorption spectra for atoms are distinctive and well known, calibrated from spectroscopic experiments in laboratories on Earth. When the redshift of various absorption and emission lines from a single astronomical object is measured, z is found to be remarkably constant. Although distant objects may be slightly blurred and lines broadened, it is by no more than can be explained by thermal or mechanical motion of the source. For these reasons and others, the consensus among astronomers is that the redshifts they observe are due to some combination of the three established forms of Doppler-like redshifts. Alternative hypotheses and explanations for redshift such as tired light are not generally considered plausible.[39]

Spectroscopy, as a measurement, is considerably more difficult than simple photometry, which measures the brightness of astronomical objects through certain filters.[40] When photometric data is all that is available (for example, the Hubble Deep Field and the Hubble Ultra Deep Field), astronomers rely on a technique for measuring photometric redshifts.[41] Due to the filter being sensitive to a range of wavelengths and the technique relying on making many assumptions about the nature of the spectrum at the light-source, errors for these sorts of measurements can range up to δz = 0.5, and are much less reliable than spectroscopic determinations.[42] However, photometry does allow at least for a qualitative characterization of a redshift. For example, if a sun-like spectrum had a redshift of z = 1, it would be brightest in the infrared rather than at the yellow-green color associated with the peak of its blackbody spectrum, and the light intensity will be reduced in the filter by a factor of two (1+z) (see K correction for more details on the photometric consequences of redshift).[43]

Local observationsEdit

In nearby objects (within our Milky Way galaxy) observed redshifts are almost always related to the line-of-sight velocities associated with the objects being observed. Observations of such redshifts and blue shifts have enabled astronomers to measure velocities and parametrize the masses of the orbiting stars in spectroscopic binaries, a method first employed in 1868 by British astronomer William Huggins.[7] Similarly, small redshifts and blue shifts detected in the spectroscopic measurements of individual stars are one way astronomers have been able to diagnose and measure the presence and characteristics of planetary systems around other stars and have even made very detailed differential measurements of redshifts during planetary transits to determine precise orbital parameters.[44] Measurements of redshifts to fine detail are used in helioseismology to determine the precise movements of the photosphere of the Sun.[45] Redshifts have also been used to make the first measurements of the rotation rates of planets,[46] velocities of interstellar clouds,[47] the rotation of galaxies,[2] and the dynamics of accretion onto neutron stars and black holes which exhibit both Doppler and gravitational redshifts.[48] Additionally, the temperatures of various emitting and absorbing objects can be obtained by measuring Doppler broadening — effectively redshifts and blue shifts over a single emission or absorption line.[49] By measuring the broadening and shifts of the 21-centimeter hydrogen line in different directions, astronomers have been able to measure the recessional velocities of interstellar gas, which in turn reveals the rotation curve of our Milky Way.[2] Similar measurements have been performed on other galaxies, such as Andromeda.[2] As a diagnostic tool, redshift measurements are one of the most important spectroscopic measurements made in astronomy.

Extragalactic observationsEdit

The most distant objects exhibit larger redshifts corresponding to the Hubble flow of the universe. The largest observed redshift, corresponding to the greatest distance and furthest back in time, is that of the cosmic microwave background radiation; the numerical value of its redshift is about z = 1089 (z = 0 corresponds to present time), and it shows the state of the Universe about 13.7 billion years ago, and 379,000 years after the initial moments of the Big Bang.[50]

The luminous point-like cores of quasars were the first "high-redshift" (z > 0.1) objects discovered before the improvement of telescopes allowed for the discovery of other high-redshift galaxies.

For galaxies more distant than the Local Group and the nearby Virgo Cluster, but within a thousand megaparsecs or so, the redshift is approximately proportional to the galaxy's distance. This correlation was first observed by Edwin Hubble and has come to be known as Hubble's law. Vesto Slipher was the first to discover galactic redshifts, in about the year 1912, while Hubble correlated Slipher's measurements with distances he measured by other means to formulate his Law. In the widely accepted cosmological model based on general relativity, redshift is mainly a result of the expansion of space: this means that the farther away a galaxy is from us, the more the space has expanded in the time since the light left that galaxy, so the more the light has been stretched, the more redshifted the light is, and so the faster it appears to be moving away from us. Hubble's law follows in part from the Copernican principle.[51] Because it is usually not known how luminous objects are, measuring the redshift is easier than more direct distance measurements, so redshift is sometimes in practice converted to a crude distance measurement using Hubble's law.

Gravitational interactions of galaxies with each other and clusters cause a significant scatter in the normal plot of the Hubble diagram. The peculiar velocities associated with galaxies superimpose a rough trace of the mass of virialized objects in the universe. This effect leads to such phenomena as nearby galaxies (such as the Andromeda Galaxy) exhibiting blue shifts as we fall towards a common barycenter, and redshift maps of clusters showing a Finger of God effect due to the scatter of peculiar velocities in a roughly spherical distribution.[51] This added component gives cosmologists a chance to measure the masses of objects independent of the mass to light ratio (the ratio of a galaxy's mass in solar masses to its brightness in solar luminosities), an important tool for measuring dark matter.[52]

The Hubble law's linear relationship between distance and redshift assumes that the rate of expansion of the universe is constant. However, when the universe was much younger, the expansion rate, and thus the Hubble "constant", was larger than it is today. For more distant galaxies, then, whose light has been travelling to us for much longer times, the approximation of constant expansion rate fails, and the Hubble law becomes a non-linear integral relationship and dependent on the history of the expansion rate since the emission of the light from the galaxy in question. Observations of the redshift-distance relationship can be used, then, to determine the expansion history of the universe and thus the matter and energy content.

While it was long believed that the expansion rate has been continuously decreasing since the Big Bang, recent observations of the redshift-distance relationship using Type Ia supernovae have suggested that in comparatively recent times the expansion rate of the universe has begun to accelerate.

Highest redshiftsEdit

Currently, the objects with the highest known redshifts are galaxies and the objects producing gamma ray bursts. The most reliable redshifts are from spectroscopic data, and the highest confirmed spectroscopic redshift of a galaxy is that of IOK-1,[53] at a redshift z = 6.96, corresponding to just 750 million years after the Big Bang. Slightly less reliable are Lyman-break redshifts, the highest of which is the lensed galaxy A1689-zD1 at a redshift z = 7.6[54] and the next highest being  [55] while as-yet unconfirmed reports by Ellis R. et al. from a gravitational lens observed in a distant galaxy cluster may indicate a galaxy with a redshift of  .

The most distant observed gamma ray burst was GRB 090423, which had a redshift of 8.2.[56]

The most distant known quasar, CFHQS J2329-0301, is at  .[57] The highest known redshift radio galaxy (TN J0924-2201) is at a redshift z = 5.2[58] and the highest known redshift molecular material is the detection of emission from the CO molecule from the quasar SDSS J1148+5251 at z = 6.42[59]

Extremely red objects (EROs) are astronomical sources of radiation that radiate energy in the red and near infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. These may be starburst galaxies that have a high redshift accompanied by reddening from intervening dust, or they could be highly redshifted elliptical galaxies with an older (and therefore redder) stellar population.[60] Objects that are even redder than EROs are termed hyper extremely red objects (HEROs).[61]

The Cosmic Microwave Background has a redshift of more than 1,000, corresponding to an age of approximately 379,000 years after the Big Bang and a current comoving distance of more than 46 billion light years.[62] Other high-redshift events predicted by physics but not presently observable are the cosmic neutrino background, from about two seconds after the Big Bang, and first light from the oldest Population III stars, not long after atoms first formed and the CMB ceased to be absorbed almost completely.

Redshift surveysEdit

Rendering of the 2dFGRS data

With the advent of automated telescopes and improvements in spectroscopes, a number of collaborations have been made to map the universe in redshift space. By combining redshift with angular position data, a redshift survey maps the 3D distribution of matter within a field of the sky. These observations are used to measure properties of the large-scale structure of the universe. The Great Wall, a vast supercluster of galaxies over 500 million light-years wide, provides a dramatic example of a large-scale structure that redshift surveys can detect.[63]

The first redshift survey was the CfA Redshift Survey, started in 1977 with the initial data collection completed in 1982.[64] More recently, the 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey determined the large-scale structure of one section of the Universe, measuring z-values for over 220,000 galaxies; data collection was completed in 2002, and the final data set was released 30 June 2003.[65] (In addition to mapping large-scale patterns of galaxies, 2dF established an upper limit on neutrino mass.) Another notable investigation, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), is ongoing as of 2005 and aims to obtain measurements on around 100 million objects.[66] SDSS has recorded redshifts for galaxies as high as 0.4, and has been involved in the detection of quasars beyond z = 6. The DEEP2 Redshift Survey uses the Keck telescopes with the new "DEIMOS" spectrograph; a follow-up to the pilot program DEEP1, DEEP2 is designed to measure faint galaxies with redshifts 0.7 and above, and it is therefore planned to provide a complement to SDSS and 2dF.[67]

Effects due to physical optics or radiative transferEdit

The interactions and phenomena summarized in the subjects of radiative transfer and physical optics can result in shifts in the wavelength and frequency of electromagnetic radiation. In such cases the shifts correspond to a physical energy transfer to matter or other photons rather than being due to a transformation between reference frames. These shifts can be due to such physical phenomena as coherence effects or the scattering of electromagnetic radiation whether from charged elementary particles, from particulates, or from fluctuations of the index of refraction in a dielectric medium as occurs in the radio phenomenon of radio whistlers.[2] While such phenomena are sometimes referred to as "redshifts" and "blue shifts", in astrophysics light-matter interactions that result in energy shifts in the radiation field are generally referred to as "reddening" rather than "redshifting" which, as a term, is normally reserved for the effects discussed above.[2]

In many circumstances scattering causes radiation to redden because entropy results in the predominance of many low-energy photons over few high-energy ones (while conserving total energy).[2] Except possibly under carefully controlled conditions, scattering does not produce the same relative change in wavelength across the whole spectrum; that is, any calculated z is generally a function of wavelength. Furthermore, scattering from random media generally occurs at many angles, and z is a function of the scattering angle. If multiple scattering occurs, or the scattering particles have relative motion, then there is generally distortion of spectral lines as well.[2]

In interstellar astronomy, visible spectra can appear redder due to scattering processes in a phenomenon referred to as interstellar reddening[2] — similarly Rayleigh scattering causes the atmospheric reddening of the Sun seen in the sunrise or sunset and causes the rest of the sky to have a blue color. This phenomenon is distinct from redshifting because the spectroscopic lines are not shifted to other wavelengths in reddened objects and there is an additional dimming and distortion associated with the phenomenon due to photons being scattered in and out of the line-of-sight.

For a list of scattering processes, see Scattering.



  1. See Feynman, Leighton and Sands (1989) or any introductory undergraduate (and many high school) physics textbooks. See Taylor (1992) for a relativistic discussion.
  2. a b c d e f g h i j See Binney and Merrifeld (1998), Carroll and Ostlie (1996), Kutner (2003) for applications in astronomy.
  3. See Misner, Thorne and Wheeler (1973) and Weinberg (1971) or any of the physical cosmology textbooks
  4. Doppler, Christian, (1846), Prag, Druck von G. Haase sohne
  5. Dev Maulik, "Doppler Sonography: A Brief History" in Doppler Ultrasound in Obstetrics And Gynecology (2005) by Dev (EDT) Maulik, Ivica Zalud
  6. Template:MacTutor Biography
  7. a b William Huggins, "Further Observations on the Spectra of Some of the Stars and Nebulae, with an Attempt to Determine Therefrom Whether These Bodies are Moving towards or from the Earth, Also Observations on the Spectra of the Sun and of Comet II." (1868) Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Volume 158, pp. 529–564
  8. Reber, G., "Intergalactic Plasma"(1995) Astrophysics and Space Science, v. 227, p. 93–96.
  9. Bélopolsky, A., "On an Apparatus for the Laboratory Demonstration of the Doppler-Fizeau Principle" (1901) Astrophysical Journal, vol. 13, p.15
  10. Adams, Walter S., "No. 22. Preliminary catalogue of lines affected in sun-spots" (1908) Contributions from the Mount Wilson Observatory / Carnegie Institution of Washington, vol. 22, pp.1–21
  11. W. de Sitter, "On distance, magnitude, and related quantities in an expanding universe, (1934) Bulletin of the Astronomical Institutes of the Netherlands, Vol. 7, p.205. He writes: "It thus becomes urgent to investigate the effect of the redshift and of the metric of the universe on the apparent magnitude and observed numbers of nebulae of given magnitude"
  12. Slipher first reports on his measurement in the inaugural volume of the Lowell Observatory Bulletin, pp.2.56-2.57 [1]. His article entitled The radial velocity of the Andromeda Nebula reports making the first Doppler measurement on September 17, 1912. In his report, Slipher writes: "The magnitude of this velocity, which is the greatest hitherto observed, raises the question whether the velocity-like displacement might not be due to some other cause, but I believe we have at present no other interpretation for it." Three years later, in the journal Popular Astronomy, Vol. 23, p. 21–24 [2], Slipher wrote a review entitled Spectrographic Observations of Nebulae. In it he states, "The early discovery that the great Andromeda spiral had the quite exceptional velocity of - 300 km(/s) showed the means then available, capable of investigating not only the spectra of the spirals but their velocities as well." Slipher reported the velocities for 15 spiral nebulae spread across the entire celestial sphere, all but three having observable "positive" (that is recessional) velocities.
  13. Hubble, Edwin, "A Relation between Distance and Radial Velocity among Extra-Galactic Nebulae" (1929) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp. 168–173 (Full article, PDF)
  14. Friedman, A: Über die Krümmung des Raumes, Z. Phys. 10 (1922), 377–386. (English translation in: Gen. Rel. Grav. 31 (1999), 1991–2000.)
  15. a b This was recognized early on by physicists and astronomers working in cosmology in the 1930s. The earliest layman publication describing the details of this correspondence was Sir Arthur Eddington's book The Expanding Universe: Astronomy's 'Great Debate', 1900–1931, published by Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge in 1933.
  16. See, for example, this 25 May 2004 press release from NASA's Swift space telescope that is researching gamma-ray bursts: "Measurements of the gamma-ray spectra obtained during the main outburst of the GRB have found little value as redshift indicators, due to the lack of well-defined features. However, optical observations of GRB afterglows have produced spectra with identifiable lines, leading to precise redshift measurements."
  17. Where z = redshift; v|| = velocity parallel to line-of-sight (positive if moving away from receiver); c = speed of light; γ = Lorentz factor; a = scale factor; G = gravitational constant; M = object mass; r = radial Schwarzschild coordinate, gtt = t,t component of the metric tensor
  18. H. Ives and G. Stilwell, An Experimental study of the rate of a moving atomic clock, J. Opt. Soc. Am. 28, 215–226 (1938) [3]
  19. See "Photons, Relativity, Doppler shift" at the University of Queensland
  20. a b The distinction is made clear in Edward Robert Harrison (2000). Cosmology: The Science of the Universe (2 ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 306ff. ISBN 052166148X.,M1. 
  21. Theo Koupelis, Karl F. Kuhn (2007). In Quest of the Universe (5 ed.). Jones & Bartlett Publishers. p. 557. ISBN 0763743879.,M1. 
  22. "It is perfectly valid to interpret the equations of relativity in terms of an expanding space. The mistake is to push analogies too far and imbue space with physical properties that are not consistent with the equations of relativity." Geraint F. Lewis et al. (2008). "Cosmological Radar Ranging in an Expanding Universe". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 388: 960–964. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2008.13477.x. 
  23. Michal Chodorowski (2007). "Is space really expanding? A counterexample". Concepts Phys 4: 17–34. 
  24. Steven Weinberg (1993). The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe (2 ed.). Basic Books. p. 34. ISBN 0465024378. 
  25. Lars Bergström, Ariel Goobar (2006). Cosmology and Particle Astrophysics (2 ed.). Springer. p. 77, Eq.4.79. ISBN 3540329242. 
  26. M.S. Longair (1998). Galaxy Formation. Springer. p. 161. ISBN 3540637850. 
  27. Yu N Parijskij (2001). "The High Redshift Radio Universe". in Norma Sanchez. Current Topics in Astrofundamental Physics. Springer. p. 223. ISBN 0792368568. 
  28. Measurements of the peculiar velocities out to 5 Mpc using the Hubble Space Telescope were reported in 2003 by Karachentsev et al. Local galaxy flows within 5 Mpc. 02/2003 Astronomy and Astrophysics, 398, 479-491.[4]
  29. Edward Harrison (1992). "The redshift-distance and velocity-distance laws". Astrophysical Journal, Part 1 403: 28–31. doi:10.1086/172179. . A pdf file can be found here.
  30. Steven Weinberg (2008). Cosmology. Oxford University Press. p. 11. ISBN 9780198526827. 
  31. Odenwald & Fienberg 1993
  32. Speed faster than light is allowed because the expansion of the spacetime metric is described by general relativity in terms of sequences of only locally valid inertial frames as opposed to a global Minkowski metric. Expansion faster than light is an integrated effect over many local inertial frames and is allowed because no single inertial frame is involved. The speed-of-light limitation applies only locally. See Michal Chodorowski (2007). "Is space really expanding? A counterexample". Concepts Phys 4: 17–34. 
  33. M. Weiss, What Causes the Hubble Redshift?, entry in the Physics FAQ (1994), available via John Baez's website
  34. This is only true in a universe where there are no peculiar velocities. Otherwise, redshifts combine as
    which yields solutions where certain objects that "recede" are blue shifted and other objects that "approach" are redshifted. For more on this bizarre result see Davis, T. M., Lineweaver, C. H., and Webb, J. K. "Solutions to the tethered galaxy problem in an expanding universe and the observation of receding blue shifted objects", American Journal of Physics (2003), 71 358–364.
  35. See for example, Chant, C. A., "Notes and Queries (Telescopes and Observatory Equipment-The Einstein Shift of Solar Lines)" (1930) Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 24, p.390
  36. Einstein, A (1907). "Unknown title". Jahrbuch der Radioaktivität und Elektronik 4: 411–?. 
  37. R. V. Pound and G. A. Rebka Jr., Apparent weight of photons, Phys. Rev. Lett. 4, 337 (1960). [5] This paper was the first measurement.
  38. Sachs, R. K.; Wolfe, A. M. (1967). "Perturbations of a cosmological model and angular variations of the cosmic microwave background". Astrophysical Journal 147 (73): 73. doi:10.1086/148982. 
  39. When cosmological redshifts were first discovered, Fritz Zwicky proposed an effect known as tired light. While usually considered for historical interests, it is sometimes, along with intrinsic redshift suggestions, utilized by nonstandard cosmologies. In 1981, H. J. Reboul summarised many alternative redshift mechanisms that had been discussed in the literature since the 1930s. In 2001, Geoffrey Burbidge remarked in a review that the wider astronomical community has marginalized such discussions since the 1960s. Burbidge and Halton Arp, while investigating the mystery of the nature of quasars, tried to develop alternative redshift mechanisms, and very few of their fellow scientists acknowledged let alone accepted their work. Moreover, Goldhaber et al. 2001; "Timescale Stretch Parameterization of Type Ia Supernova B-Band Lightcurves", ApJ, 558:359-386, 2001 September 1 pointed out that alternative theories are unable to account for timescale stretch observed in type Ia supernovae
  40. For a review of the subject of photometry, consider Budding, E., Introduction to Astronomical Photometry, Cambridge University Press (September 24, 1993), ISBN 0-521-41867-4
  41. The technique was first described by Baum, W. A.: 1962, in G. C. McVittie (ed.), Problems of extra-galactic research, p. 390, IAU Symposium No. 15
  42. Bolzonella, M.; Miralles, J.-M.; Pelló, R., Photometric redshifts based on standard SED fitting procedures, Astronomy and Astrophysics, 363, p.476–492 (2000).
  43. A pedagogical overview of the K-correction by David Hogg and other members of the SDSS collaboration can be found at astro-ph.
  44. The Exoplanet Tracker is the newest observing project to use this technique, able to track the redshift variations in multiple objects at once, as reported in Ge, Jian et al. The First Extrasolar Planet Discovered with a New-Generation High-Throughput Doppler Instrument, The Astrophysical Journal, 2006 648, Issue 1, pp. 683-695.[6]
  45. Libbrecht, Ken G., Solar and stellar seismology, Space Science Reviews, 1988 37 n. 3–4, 275–301.
  46. In 1871 Hermann Carl Vogel measured the rotation rate of Venus. Vesto Slipher was working on such measurements when he turned his attention to spiral nebulae.
  47. An early review by Oort, J. H. on the subject: The formation of galaxies and the origin of the high-velocity hydrogen, Astronomy and Astrophysics, 7, 381 (1970) [7].
  48. Asaoka, Ikuko, X-ray spectra at infinity from a relativistic accretion disk around a Kerr black hole, Astronomical Society of Japan, Publications (ISSN 0004-6264), 41 no. 4, 1989, p. 763–778 [8]
  49. Rybicki, G. B. and A. R. Lightman, Radiative Processes in Astrophysics, John Wiley & Sons, 1979, p. 288 ISBN 0-471-82759-2
  50. An accurate measurement of the cosmic microwave background was achieved by the COBE experiment. The final published temperature of 2.73 K was reported in this paper: Fixsen, D. J.; Cheng, E. S.; Cottingham, D. A.; Eplee, R. E., Jr.; Isaacman, R. B.; Mather, J. C.; Meyer, S. S.; Noerdlinger, P. D.; Shafer, R. A.; Weiss, R.; Wright, E. L.; Bennett, C. L.; Boggess, N. W.; Kelsall, T.; Moseley, S. H.; Silverberg, R. F.; Smoot, G. F.; Wilkinson, D. T.. (1994). "Cosmic microwave background dipole spectrum measured by the COBE FIRAS instrument", Astrophysical Journal, 420, 445. The most accurate measurement as of 2006 was achieved by the WMAP experiment.
  51. a b Peebles (1993).
  52. Binney, James; and Scott Treimane (1994). Galactic dynamics. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-08445-9. 
  53. Masanori Iye, et al. (2006). "A galaxy at a redshift z = 6.96". Nature 443 (7108): 186–188. doi:10.1038/nature05104. PMID 16971942. 
  54. Bradley, L.., et al., Discovery of a Very Bright Strongly Lensed Galaxy Candidate at z ~ 7.6, The Astrophysical Journal (2008), Volume 678, Issue 2, pp. 647-654. [
  55. Egami, E., et al., Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescope Constraints on the Physical Properties of the z~7 Galaxy Strongly Lensed by A2218, The Astrophysical Journal (2005), v. 618, Issue 1, pp. L5-L8 [9].
  56. Salvaterra, R. et al. (2009). "GRB 090423 reveals an exploding star at the epoch of re-ionization". Submitted to Nature 461: 1258. doi:10.1038/nature08445. 
  57. Willott, Chris J. et al., Four Quasars Above Redshift 6 Discovered by the Canada-France High-z Quasar Survey, The Astronomical Journal (2007), v. 134, pp. 2435–2450 [10].
  58. Klamer et al., 2005, ApJ 621, L1
  59. Walter, Fabian et al., Molecular gas in the host galaxy of a quasar at redshift z = 6.42, Nature (2003), v. 424, pp. 406–408 [11].
  60. Smail, Ian; Owen, F. N.; Morrison, G. E.; Keel, W. C.; Ivison, R. J.; Ledlow, M. J. (2002). "The Diversity of Extremely Red Objects". The Astrophysical Journal 581 (2): 844–864. doi:10.1086/344440. Bibcode2002ApJ...581..844S. 
  61. Totani, Tomonori; Yoshii, Yuzuru; Iwamuro, Fumihide; Maihara, Toshinori; Motohara, Kentaro (2001). "Hyper Extremely Red Objects in the Subaru Deep Field: Evidence for Primordial Elliptical Galaxies in the Dusty Starburst Phase". The Astrophysical Journal 558 (2): L87–L91. doi:10.1086/323619. Bibcode2001ApJ...558L..87T. 
  62. Lineweaver, Charles; Tamara M. Davis (2005). "Misconceptions about the Big Bang". Scientific American. Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
  63. M. J. Geller & J. P. Huchra, Science 246, 897 (1989). online
  64. See the official CfA website for more details.
  65. Shaun Cole et al. (The 2dFGRS Collaboration) (2005). "The 2dF galaxy redshift survey: Power-spectrum analysis of the final dataset and cosmological implications". Mon. Not. Roy. Astron. Soc. 362: 505–34.  2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey homepage
  66. SDSS Homepage
  67. Marc Davis et al. (DEEP2 collaboration) (2002). "Science objectives and early results of the DEEP2 redshift survey". Conference on Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation, Waikoloa, Hawaii, 22–28 Aug 2002. 


  • Odenwald, S. & Fienberg, RT. 1993; "Galaxy Redshifts Reconsidered" in Sky & Telescope Feb. 2003; pp31–35 (This article is useful further reading in distinguishing between the 3 types of redshift and their causes.)
  • Lineweaver, Charles H. and Tamara M. Davis, "Misconceptions about the Big Bang", Scientific American, March 2005. (This article is useful for explaining the cosmological redshift mechanism as well as clearing up misconceptions regarding the physics of the expansion of space.)

Book referencesEdit

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