We have watched the farther galaxies fleeing
away from us, wild herds of panic horses--
or a trick of distance deceived the prism. . . .
In his splendid book The Drama of the Universe ( 1978) the late astronomer George Abell speculates on what generates the enormous energies emitted by quasars (quasi-stellar sources). Quasars are almost surely the most distant known objects in the universe. Their gigantic redshifts indicate that some are moving outward at velocities close to 90 percent of the speed of light. They occupy positions believed to be very near the "edge" of the light barrier, a boundary beyond which nothing could ever be observed from our galaxy.
"All these ideas," writes Abell, referring to alternative theories about the nature of quasars, "and many more (except, probably, the right one), have been suggested. . . . But I must say, the situation isn't helped any by certain catalogs of crazy-looking objects. One nasty person who has given us such a catalog, and who keeps adding to it, is Halton C. Arp. I don't know what the 'C' stands for, but all his friends call him 'Chip.' He's in danger of losing all those friends, if he keeps up what he's doing now!
"Now mind you, I am kidding, because I am very fond of Chip Arp. In fact, we were graduate students at Caltech together. But in those years he was nice."
An astronomer at Hale Observatories, in California, Chip Arp is still adding to his collection of crazy objects, and still making sharp rapier jabs at his more orthodox colleagues. (Actual sword fencing, by the way, is one of his major hobbies.) Like Thomas Gold, the subject of Chapter 15, Arp is a competent, well-informed scientist who delights in the role of gadfly. His peculiar anomalies are quasars that seem to be connected by bridges of luminous gas, but which have markedly different redshifts, or