Researchers find universe’s last missing ordinary matter

Avatar By Le Williams | 2 years ago

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have recently supported the discovery of the last reservoir involving ordinary matter within the universe.

Astrophysicists had only been able to locate about two-thirds of the matter that theorists predict was created by the Big Bang. Through new studies, an international team has identified the missing third, finding it in the space between galaxies.

“Lost matter exists as filaments of oxygen gas at temperatures of around 1 million degrees Celsius,” said CU Boulder’s Michael Shull, a co-author of the study.

The finding is a major step for astrophysics. “This is one of the key pillars of testing the Big Bang theory: figuring out the baryon census of hydrogen and helium and everything else in the periodic table,” said Shull of the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS).

Appearing in Nature’s June 20 publication, Fabrizio Nicastro of the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF) is represented as the leader of the new research.

Approximately 10 percent remains in galaxies, while close to 60 percent is in the diffuse clouds of gas that lie between galaxies.

Searching for missing atoms in that region between galaxies required the team to point a series of satellites at a quasar called 1ES 1553. “It’s basically a really bright lighthouse out in space,” Shull said.

The team found the signatures of a type of highly-ionized oxygen gas lying between the quasar and our solar system.

“We found the missing baryons,” Shull said.

He suspects that galaxies and quasars blew that gas out into deep space over billions of years. Shull added that the researchers will need to confirm their findings by pointing satellites at more bright quasars.