Can denser galaxies appear blue shifted?

Can galaxies with different densities then our own galaxy appear blue or red shifted from movement when in fact it could be from the time dilation from density as well?

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    $\begingroup$ I wonder due to the correlation of black holes and the galaxies characteristics, does these relationships equalize the system in total. $\endgroup$ Jan 5, 2016 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ Im unsure the edits reflect what OP was trying to ask. The original version the question seemd to me "does mass affect proper time?" while the current is "does mass affect the time of nearby points?", which is not the same (the question was not very clear to begin with, and the body didnt ask the same as the title, so I might be wrong...). I believe OP already knows that gravity affects the time of nearby points, so the edited question is probably asking something OP already knows. $\endgroup$ Jan 5, 2016 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ Related: Why isn't the center of the galaxy “younger” than the outer parts? $\endgroup$ Jan 6, 2016 at 6:45

2 Answers 2


The answer is yes they can but the effect is trivially small.

Observed gravitational redshift just depends on the difference in gravitational potential between source and observer. Roughly, $$ z \sim \frac{\Delta \Phi}{c^2}.$$ Density is is only indirectly involved in the sense that high density regions can produce large gravitational potentials. In principle, $\Delta \Phi$ could be positive or negative resulting in red- or blue-shifts respectively.

However, as I demonstrated for this very closely related (duplicate) question Can a photon that is emitted from a denser part of the universe to a less dense part appear redshifted? the size of the effect is tiny compared to redshift caused by the expansion of the universe.

Some examples: If we consider the potential at the Earth's surface compared to intergalactic space, we can add the potentials due to the Earth, due to the Sun and due to the Galaxy (assuming $10^{11}$ solar masses within the Sun's 8kpc orbit). These terms give (additive) redshifts of $z= 4\times 10^{-10}$, $10^{-8}$ and $6\times 10^{-7}$, corresponding to a blue-shift for light arriving at the Earth, expressed as a velocity, of 0.2 km/s.

Of course the emitting regions of an external galaxy sit in their own potentials and the redshifts due to these would have to be subtracted from the number above. Such numbers are negligible compared to the hundreds of km/s that even local galaxies move with respect to the Earth.

The only exception to the negligibility of this effect would be if we specifically looked at light coming from very close to a central black hole. For example X-ray emission of gas in active galactic nuclei emitting light from close the innermost stable orbit will have an observed redshift of up to about 0.2 (60,000 km/s), but such large redshifts are not used or quoted as the redshift of the galaxy that hosts the black hole.

  • $\begingroup$ If Muze was looking to do practical calculations, this answer looks perfect to me, and it may also prove to be the right one, if Hawking radiation can ever be proven (differentiated from radiation in general). My own answer is based more on the possibility that our observable region is the cosmic equivalent of a permanently gated subdivision (with a gate that can't be opened): Of course, many of us may soon be in one, whether we like (or need) it or not. $\endgroup$
    – Edouard
    Feb 19, 2019 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ I should add that the cosmology described in my own answer may offer no advantage in its potential for verification over the subatomic field-based inflation (whose CMB effects it duplicates) perhaps still more generally accepted: However, since it would balance observable contraction against expansion, it's compatible with a universe eternal to the past as well as to the future, and might consequently have explanatory power for structure over twice the volume of space. $\endgroup$
    – Edouard
    Feb 19, 2019 at 20:54

The question may be a little ambiguous, as it's not clear whether whatever mass might be contained in the black hole at (or forming) the center of most galaxies is to be included in the mass whose density is under consideration: In Hawking's 2014 conclusion that the horizons of black holes are "only 'apparent'", it would be, but in the more classical formulations that they are not, it wouldn't, as the causal separation they represent would be quasi-infinite (i.e., infinite to the future) in its duration. If there's a convention for dealing with the resulting ambiguity, I'm not aware of it, although the conventional refusal to consider the "singularity" (once generally considered to lie within each BH) as explaining the externally paradoxical combination of infinite density with zero volume tends to suggest that there isn't one, in which case I'd assume the overall galactic density inward from the outer surface of a galaxy centered around a particularly large central BH to be relatively low compared to the density of those lacking any BH fitting that description, as the coalescence of collapsed stellar masses (ordinary BHs) into any large BH at its center would tend to be leaving the galaxy centered around it rather impoverished as to mass density, even though it would generally tend to have previously included even more binary pairs than most galaxies are assumed to have, under the usual assumption that BHs result almost entirely from the gravitational collapse of unusually large stars within such pairs, prior to whatever coalescences of them with each other may occur.

It does appear that time dilation is considered to occur regardless of causal separations, presumably because the causality on opposite sides of such separations remains common to each of them even after the gravitational collapse (due to exhaustion of stellar "fuel") that increases the scale of the escape velocity of light (to a level beyond that prevalent prior to the separation), from the gravitational (AKA "event") horizon (i.e., the location of the former stellar surface), has occurred.

The simplest post-2009 resolution of the disparity between density and volume in the so-called singularity might be Poplawski's "cosmology with torsion" (to use the title of one of his arxiv papers on the issue), which utilizes a hypothetical spin-spin interaction between stellar fermions (assumed, per the Einstein-Cartan gravity he uses, to each have a tiny spatial extent) and newer ones, separated by the event horizon from their previous partners (in virtual pairs) during tidal effects of the parenting star's gravitational collapse. The resulting and smaller-scaled "baby universe" would form on the inward side of that horizon, but would not extend permanently beyond the eventual spacetime location of still smaller ones, forming through the same process in what appears to be the "block universe" version of time: Each such iteration would, rather, be analogous to the skin of a basketball.

  • $\begingroup$ As their plausible inference of a difference between velocities of light, in different causally-separated regions of spacetime, is bound to raise howls from almost everyone who can vote, I'd request that they first read the first paragraph of Section 27 of Einstein's 1916 popular science book "Relativity: The Special and General Theory", available free online at Wikisource. $\endgroup$
    – Edouard
    Feb 19, 2019 at 6:51

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