Society Lecture: The Great Quasar Debate 1963-1986 – Prof. Mike Edmunds

May 5, 2018 @ 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Willingdon Memorial Hall
Church St
Eastbourne BN20 9HT

Title: The Great Quasar Debate 1963-1986 – 


The Cambridge University radio astronomy group published their third catalogue of radio sources in 1959. By 1963 attempts at identifying visible objects associated with the radio sources showed up two objects – 3C 273 and 3C 48 – which looked star-like but whose properties were very hard to understand. Were these very distant and extraordinarily luminous objects? Or were they comparatively nearby, but moving at relativistic velocities?Either choice led to major problems. The debate over the nature of these ‘quasi-stellar objects’ or ‘quasars’ raged through the 1960s and on into the 1970s, but was finally over by 1986. In this talk Mike Edmunds look back over the arguments in which – from 1975 – he was slightly involved. With hindsight perhaps the debate should have been over by 1969. But the full story illustrates quite well how radical scientific developments are established as new observational evidence accumulates and unusual theoretical ideas – even an idea as extreme as a black hole of a billion solar masses – become accepted

Biographical details

Prof. Mike Edmunds

Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics and former Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University