Half of the universe's missing matter has been found


Scientists have discovered the location of the universe's missing matter - the half of ordinary matter that could not be previously observed, but which scientists knew to exist.

The other global team, whose lead author is Hideki Tanimura from the University of British Columbia, Canada, studied data of the thermal Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect between ∼260,000 pairs of Luminous Red Galaxies (LRG's) taken from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

The missing matter is made of particles called baryons which link galaxies together through filaments of hot, diffuse gas.

However, our observations of normal matter (protons, neutrons and electrons) only account for about 2.5 percent of the universe-the rest of it is nowhere to be found.

Although strands of baryon, the ordinary-matter holding gas linking galaxies, were thought to exist, the phenomenon was not observable through X-ray telescopes.

The papers released as part of these discoveries have yet to be peer-reviewed, however with both groups finding a similar conclusion to their analysis, it is likely that between them, these teams have helped solve the mystery of where all the missing mass has been hiding.

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Research has now shown that gas filaments between some galaxies contain subatomic particles called baryons. This breakthrough confirms what scientists have suspected for decades. This interaction leaves behind markers of the gas that can be captured and studied.

'It's been purely speculation until now'. Both teams of researchers used the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect concept and used data on pairs of galaxies taken from catalogs in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

They suggest that the apparent over-density of baryons could be due to filaments in merger systems that have shock-heated and compressed the gas more than normal. As the light travels, some of it scatters off the electrons in the gas, leaving a dim patch in the cosmic microwave background - our snapshot of the remnants from the birth of the cosmos. So, scientists recreate the Universe inside a computer and study that stimulation. They stacked the Planck signals for the areas between the galaxies, making the individually faint strands detectable en masse.

With a total of 260,000 pairs of such galaxies already explored, it turned out that in filamentary structures between them, baryonic matter is several times denser than elsewhere in the universe. This mismatch is known as the "missing baryon problem".

'We expect some differences because we are looking at filaments at different distances, ' Dr Tanimura told New Scientist. "If this factor is included, our findings are very consistent with the other group".