Universe's not-so-missing mass

May 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A Monash student has made a breakthrough in the field of astrophysics, discovering what has until now been described as the Universe's 'missing mass'. Amelia Fraser-McKelvie, working within a team at the Monash School of Physics, conducted a targeted X-ray search for the matter and within just three months found it – or at least some of it.

What makes the discovery all the more noteworthy is the fact that Ms Fraser-McKelvie is not a career researcher, or even studying at a postgraduate level. She is a 22-year-old undergraduate Aerospace Engineering/Science student who pinpointed the missing mass during a summer scholarship, working with two astrophysicists at the School of Physics, Dr Kevin Pimbblet and Dr Jasmina Lazendic-Galloway.

The School of Physics put out a call for students interested in a six-week paid research internship during a recent vacation period, and chose Ms Fraser-McKelvie from a large number of applicants. Dr Pimbblet, lecturer in the School of Physics put the magnitude of the discovery in context by explaining that scientists had been hunting for the Universe's missing mass for decades.

"It was thought from a theoretical viewpoint that there should be about double the amount of matter in the local compared to what was observed. It was predicted that the majority of this missing mass should be located in large-scale cosmic structures called filaments - a bit like thick shoelaces," said Dr Pimbblet.

Astrophysicists also predicted that the mass would be low in density, but high in temperature - approximately one million degrees Celsius. This meant that, in theory, the matter should have been observable at X-ray wavelengths. Amelia Fraser-McKelvie's discovery has proved that prediction correct.

Ms Fraser-McKelvie said the 'Eureka moment' came when Dr Lazendic-Galloway closely examined the data they had collected."Using her expert knowledge in the X-ray astronomy field, Jasmina reanalysed our results to find that we had in fact detected the filaments in our data, where previously we believed we had not."

X-ray observations provide important information about physical properties of large-scale structures, which can help astrophysicists better understand their true nature. Until now, they had been making deductions based only on numerical models, so the discovery is a huge step forward in determining what amount of mass is actually contained within filaments.

Still a year away from undertaking her Honours year (which she will complete under the supervision of Dr Pimbblet), Ms Fraser-McKelvie is being hailed as one of Australia's most exciting young students. Her work has been published in one of the world's oldest and most prestigious scientific journals, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

"Being a published author is very exciting for me, and something I could never have achieved without the help of both Kevin and Jasmina. Their passion and commitment for this project ensured the great result and I am very thankful to them for all the help they have given me and time they have invested," said Ms Fraser-McKelvie.

Dr Pimbblet said that he had under his tuition a very talented student who excelled in performing the breakthrough research.

"She has managed to get a refereed publication accepted by one of the highest ranking astronomy journals in the world as a result of her endeavours. I cannot underscore enough what a terrific achievement this is. We will use this research as a science driver for future telescopes that are being planned, such as the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder, which is being built in outback Western Australian."

Explore further: First potentially habitable Earth-sized planet confirmed: It may have liquid water

Related Stories

UQ researchers reach the outer limits of space

Jan 16, 2006

If you've just come back from holidays and think it was a long trip, spare a thought for Dr Kevin Pimbblet. Dr Pimbblet, an astrophysicist with The University of Queensland's School of Physical Sciences, has been traveling ...

Random Numbers from Cosmic Rays

Sep 14, 2004

Cosmic rays from exploding stars have provided a new and innovative way of producing truly random numbers. University of Queensland mathematician Dr Michael Bulmer and UQ physicist Dr Kevin Pimbblet have produced random numbe ...

Lobster telescope has an eye for X-rays

Apr 04, 2006

UK astronomers have been at the forefront of designing a revolutionary new X-ray telescope that is based on the eyes of a lobster. By replicating the crustacean’s ability to observe objects all around it ...

Seeing is believing

Mar 24, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Whenever you look up at the stars you are looking back in time, as light from even our closest neighbour, Alpha Centauri, started its journey to Earth more than four years ago. It is a phenomenon ...

Massive galaxy cluster found 10 billion light years away

Jun 06, 2006

A University of Sussex astronomer is the lead researcher for a project that has led to the discovery of the most distant cluster of galaxies observed to date. The cluster, which is 10 billion light years from Earth, is also ...

Recommended for you

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

1 hour ago

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

Exoplanets soon to gleam in the eye of NESSI

4 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The New Mexico Exoplanet Spectroscopic Survey Instrument (NESSI) will soon get its first "taste" of exoplanets, helping astronomers decipher their chemical composition. Exoplanets are planets ...

A sharp eye on Southern binary stars

Apr 17, 2014

Unlike our sun, with its retinue of orbiting planets, many stars in the sky orbit around a second star. These binary stars, with orbital periods ranging from days to centuries, have long been the primary ...

User comments : 31

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

spectator
1.9 / 5 (18) May 24, 2011
So much for cold dark matter halos theory. Can we finally put that dead horse to rest?

Now that they've detected some of this material, they'll need to figure out how much detectable hot matter there is in a typical volume of filaments.

Then a workable hypothesis of how gas at such a low density in the middle of nowhere in intergalactic space could be that hot and stay that hot.

The energy has to come from somewhere: black hole jets, white hole jets, or some other exotic object like that.
SteveL
4.1 / 5 (8) May 24, 2011
I don't think this will displace dark matter. They didn't say how much mass, just that they have found some of the missing mass. But this coupled with the new findings on cooler baryonic matter (rogue jupiter-sized planets) should have some effect on the baryonic vs. non-barionic percentages but not all that much.
TabulaMentis
3 / 5 (12) May 24, 2011
@Spectator:
Finding filaments does not replace dark matter or dark energy. Only a small amount of the missing mass can be found in filaments. Whiteholes have yet to be discovered, but they will probably someday be found creating dark matter and dark energy.
yyz
4.6 / 5 (18) May 24, 2011
"So much for cold dark matter halos theory. Can we finally put that dead horse to rest?"

QC, please, give that a rest. There is NO mention of DM in this article or the paper it is based on: http://arxiv.org/...11v2.pdf

This research is studying hot *baryonic* matter found in the WHIM between galaxies. Most DM has been shown to be *non-baryonic* in nature. Try reading before posting.
iknow
1.3 / 5 (16) May 24, 2011
Score another for Serbia!

only a Serb will crack the secret of the universe and give us wireless power that Tesla invented
spectator
1.9 / 5 (16) May 24, 2011
Tabula:

The "missing mass" of the universe is allegedly found in either DM or Dark Energy, take your pick.

That's why the theories of Dark Matter and Dark Energy were invented, obviously, as an attempt to explain the appearance of gravity-like and anti-gravity-like forces to explain the spiral arms of galaxies and the expansion of the universe.

The concept of "missing mass," by definition, must fall into one of the two categories: if we're missing gravity in and around galaxies, then it is Dark Matter, if we're missing an expansionary force then it's Dark Enrgy.

Filaments are 10s to even 100s of times longer than a galactic radius, so they could contain absolutely huge amounts of matter.

This is "hot dark matter". What else would it be? By definition, Dark Matter constitutes any missing "previously undetected" gravitational mass.
sstritt
3.8 / 5 (4) May 24, 2011
QC, please, give that a rest.

Funny, I had just realized that spectator was QC! LOL
frajo
3.4 / 5 (8) May 24, 2011
Most DM has been shown to be *non-baryonic* in nature.
I prefer the phrasing "All experiments/measurements have shown that there is virtually no baryonic DM".
baudrunner
1 / 5 (8) May 24, 2011
Missing energy could be accounted for in another way -- interpreting the model of the expanding and creating cosmos as being analogous to the condensation of residual matter thrust from the jet plume of a colossal rocket engine. That would explain that withall the expansion and mutually receding components and scattering matter evaporating filaments and so on all being spewed forth, nay spawned forth, to manifest this thing we call creation, we can toss in the variable of thrust of acceleration of the plume's source to compensate for the missing energy, and we have a new Universal Model of Creation!
SteveL
4.9 / 5 (17) May 24, 2011
Score another for Serbia!

only a Serb will crack the secret of the universe and give us wireless power that Tesla invented

Fantastic advances in science and engineering have been made by people from various races, ethnicities, educational and economic backgrounds. Give it a rest.
kevinrtrs
2.3 / 5 (15) May 24, 2011
Most DM has been shown to be *non-baryonic* in nature

Interesting statement this. Just how has this been shown to be the case since DM cannot be detected, only inferred via complicated mathematical models which could very easily be wrong?
krundoloss
4.8 / 5 (5) May 24, 2011
I like the concepts of Dark Matter and Dark Energy, because they so directly relate to the huge amount that we DONT KNOW about the universe. Its funny, "We dont know whats up with this, so, lets call it 'Dark Matter' or 'Dark Energy' or whatever until we find out more". Humans are funny.
that_guy
4.7 / 5 (11) May 24, 2011
qc give it a rest

I never realized until just now. If I just changed my screen name, would you guys be able to tell, just by how i comment?

I hate the dark matter theory myself, but I have to admit that this does nothing to the dark matter argument. The missing matter discovered here was already catalogued as missing matter - not as part of the DM estimate. The biggest impact it could make is to move the needle a little, but not something substantial.
El_Nose
4.8 / 5 (12) May 24, 2011
People this is not about DM or DE -- read the article please

this was about localised missing mass... very specific -- no scientist even utters DM on this topic because they now this was a seperate issue -- it was one of the things the J. Webb telescope was going to look for; because they thought MAYBE some big clouds of dust were obscurring the observations -- give it a break
jmcanoy1860
4 / 5 (2) May 24, 2011
People this is not about DM or DE -- read the article please

this was about localised missing mass... very specific -- no scientist even utters DM on this topic because they now this was a seperate issue -- it was one of the things the J. Webb telescope was going to look for; because they thought MAYBE some big clouds of dust were obscurring the observations -- give it a break


Tell this to the cretinists
Pyle
2.2 / 5 (6) May 24, 2011
I prefer the phrasing "All experiments/measurements have shown that there is virtually no baryonic DM".

Battling the cretinists is fun and all... but frajo's point is a good one. Further I think this article WAS indirectly about DM. This finding kills lots of speculation that there was a significant DM structure in the local neighborhood making up this "missing-mass".
yyz and El Nose's comments are dead on, of course. But I just felt it was important to note that this finding does in fact close doors to some crazy DM ideas I have come across.
71STARS
1 / 5 (5) May 24, 2011
If it's low in density and high in temperature, it can't be the substance that holds the Universe together. It's as simply as that. What did they find?
that_guy
4.7 / 5 (6) May 24, 2011
If it's low in density and high in temperature, it can't be the substance that holds the Universe together. It's as simply as that. What did they find?

Some sources say that it's the core politician forming region.
Other sources say that the milky way farted
Still others believe that it's where QC gets all his ideas (ok, just kidding on that one.)
It's just a bunch of hot gas.
omatumr
1.1 / 5 (12) May 25, 2011
So much for cold dark matter halos theory. Can we finally put that dead horse to rest?

The energy has to come from somewhere: black hole jets, white hole jets, or some other exotic object like that.


Neutron repulsion [1] is the energy source revealed in nuclear rest mass data [2] in 2000. It is a greater source of nuclear energy than that released by fission or fusion [3].

1. "Neutron Repulsion", The APEIRON Journal, in press, 19 pages (2011)
http://arxiv.org/...2.1499v1

2. "Cradle of the Nuclides"

www.omatumr.com/D...Data.htm

3. "Neutron repulsion confirmed as energy source", Journal of Fusion Energy 20, 197-201 (2002).

www.springerlink....6685079/

Oliver K. Manuel
DavidMcC
2.7 / 5 (3) May 25, 2011
Funny how nearly all of this thread is only here because of an oversight by the Physorg reporter in forgetting to mention that the "missing matter" doesn't account for much of the "dark matter". Or, perhaps the reporter was also fooled.
Whichever, thanks, ElNose for pointing it out!
that_guy
5 / 5 (2) May 25, 2011
Funny how nearly all of this thread is only here because of an oversight by the Physorg reporter in forgetting to mention that the "missing matter" doesn't account for much of the "dark matter". Or, perhaps the reporter was also fooled.
Whichever, thanks, ElNose for pointing it out!

As sloppy as some of the writers on physorg get, I think it pretty strongly implied that it was not in relation to dark matter. I think the majority of the conversation was because a few people shot from the hip without thinking about/researching the issue.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (9) May 25, 2011
So much for cold dark matter halos theory. Can we finally put that dead horse to rest?

The missing matter is the quantity of baryonic matter (the 6% that we're made of) that's missing from surveys of the universe. Not the dark matter or dark energy theorized to account for the remaining 94% of the universe.

Was hilarious to watch the cranks jump all over it before they read the paper though.
GSwift7
3.7 / 5 (6) May 27, 2011
Yes, this story is just talking about the normal matter (which not part of galaxies), which our models of the big bang say should be there between the galaxies. This is just the first time anybody has actually spotted some of it with a telescope. The "missing mass" problem relates to mass INSIDE (and between) galaxies, which we expect to find because galaxies seem to have more gravity than they should. We don't expect this matter to be 'normal' matter because we have exhausted what we think are the limits of observation for 'normal' matter. So, now we're running tests on quasi-particles at CERN to see if some of the little bits and pieces that compose matter might have mass that we didn't know about (like the higgs boson).

As a note to anyone who is wondering, the previous posts mention barionic matter. That is stuff made of atoms. Non-barionic is stuff that's not made of atoms, like neutrinos.

wiki isn't too bad on this:

http://en.wikiped...k_matter
Pyle
3 / 5 (4) May 27, 2011
Gary, I think you blew it. This is the same mistake with "missing mass" that is killing this thread. The problem is the author of the article at Monash University - NOT physorg.com mind you haters out there - uses the term missing mass without using the word baryonic anywhere, or clarifying that this is not about DM.
The reference to filaments and the term "local universe" really muck it up. But the first sentence in the abstract of the paper linked by yyz clears it all up:
Most of the baryons in the Universe are thought to be contained within filaments
of galaxies

AH HA! Now we know what they are talking about. I wish that would have been the lead in on the article too.
jonnyboy
3 / 5 (2) May 29, 2011
If it's low in density and high in temperature, it can't be the substance that holds the Universe together. It's as simply as that. What did they find?

Some sources say that it's the core politician forming region.
Other sources say that the milky way farted
Still others believe that it's where QC gets all his ideas (ok, just kidding on that one.)
It's just a bunch of hot gas.


All I know is ....we call him "The STIG"
GSwift7
3 / 5 (5) May 30, 2011
Pyle:

Gary, I think you blew it. This is the same mistake with "missing mass" that is killing this thread. The problem is the author of the article at Monash University - NOT physorg.com mind you haters out there - uses the term missing mass without using the word baryonic anywhere, or clarifying that this is not about DM


I'm not sure how I blew it, since you're saying the same thing I was trying to say. The title of the article is misleading because it uses the term 'missing mass' which leads to the dark matter theory. I was just trying to carify for people here about the stuff the group in this study found. I was tring to explain that these people didn't find dark matter. They found matter of a type we already have observed elsewhere, not the hypothetical dark matter of the 'missing mass' problem. The matter these people found is probably non-barionic, but they don't really say in the article. Non-barionic matter isn't something we have never seen before.
Pyle
4 / 5 (4) May 30, 2011
The matter these people found is probably non-barionic, but they don't really say in the article.
Hmmmmm. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think so. Pretty sure it is just barionic matter. Anyway, maybe blew it was a little harsh. Your post was good, but I just don't think this matter they found is exotic. Just previously undetected.
SteveL
5 / 5 (1) May 30, 2011
If they have found more matter - it's baryonic. If we keep finding more baryonic matter that had not been accounted for before when calculating the needed mass in the universe it will change the ratio of baryonic vs. non-baryonic - very slightly. None of the new matter that has been found recently in these filaments or in rogue planets will make any significant difference in the percentages. I'd expect that if all matter in the universe were baryonic it would be awefully hard to see very clearly for any significant disance.
vidar_lund
not rated yet May 31, 2011
Where did they pick up this story, from the The Onion?
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) May 31, 2011
The matter these people found is probably non-barionic, but they don't really say in the article.
Hmmmmm. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think so


At that temperature, it would be plasma, which is a mix of ions (barionic) and free electrons (non-barionic), so it's both really.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) May 31, 2011
what i meant to say was that it's not dust or gas. The wiki page on this isn't too bad of a place to start.

http://en.wikiped...physics)

correction:

I guess even though an astrophysical plasma is equal parts ions and electrons, it's consideres baryonic.

http://en.wikiped...l_plasma

More news stories

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Under some LED bulbs whites aren't 'whiter than white'

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different ...