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Student astronomers uncover incomplete galactic matter

Astronomers have for the first time used distant galaxies as ‘scintillating pins’ to locate and identify a piece of the Milky Way’s missing matter.

Student astronomers uncover incomplete galactic matter
08.02.2021 13:49

Astronomers have long been able to guess how much matter was meant to be produced in the Big Bang, but there just doesn’t seem to be enough up there when they look at the sky. Around 40% of all stars, planets, asteroids, and other debris are short.

Yuanming Wang, a doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney’s School of Physics, has developed an ingenious approach to help track lost matter. She used her methodology to locate a previously undetected source of cold gas some 10 light years from Earth in the Milky Way.

One of the most common examples of how stars appear to twinkle with an effect created by their shimmering light as it moves through the atmosphere of Earth.

Hydrogen freezes at around minus 260 degrees and scientists have speculated that some of the lost baryonic matter in the universe may be locked in these snow clouds of hydrogen. They are almost difficult to specifically detect.

We have now, however, developed a way to use background galaxies as pins to classify such clumps of ‘invisible’ cold gas,” said Ms Wang.”

The discovery of Ms Wang contributes to a growing suite of resources for astronomers in their search of the missing baryonic matter of the universe. This entails a system reported last year by Curtin University’s late Jean-Pierre Macquart, who used the ASKAP telescope of CSIRO to measure a portion of matter in the intergalactic medium using short radio bursts as ‘cosmic weigh stations.’