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Schmidt, Maarten

spectrum quasars quasar optical

[shmit] (1929– ) Dutch–US astronomer: explained optical spectra of quasars as due to their relativistic velocities.

Schmidt studied at the universities of Groningen and Leiden, moving to the California Institute of Technology in 1959. He became director of the Hale Observatories in 1978.

Following the identification of a quasar with a faint optical object with a highly unusual spectrum in 1960 by , Schmidt studied the spectrum of another optically identified quasar, 3C 273, and discovered that the peculiarities of its spectrum were caused by a massive redshift. The quasar appeared to be receding at nearly 16% of the speed of light, leading to what is normally the ultraviolet part of the spectrum being observed in the visible region. Such high velocities are now interpreted as implying that quasars are very distant objects. Schmidt also found that the number of quasars increases with distance from Earth, a finding that provided evidence for the ‘Big Bang’ theory for the origin of the universe rather than the rival steady-state theory.

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