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Australian Student Uncovers the Universe’s Missing Mass

Cosmic Microwave Background Courtesy of NASA / WMAP Science Team

Not since the work of Fritz Zwicky has the astronomy world been so excited about the missing mass of the Universe. His evidence came from the orbital velocities of galaxies in clusters, rotational speeds, and gravitational lensing of background objects. Now there’s even more evidence that Zwicky was right as Australian student – Amelia Fraser-McKelvie – made another breakthrough in the world of astrophysics.

Working with a team at the Monash School of Physics, the 22-year-old undergraduate Aerospace Engineering/Science student conducted a targeted X-ray search for the hidden matter and within just three months made a very exciting discovery. Astrophysicists predicted the mass would be low in density, but high in temperature – approximately one million degrees Celsius. According to theory, the matter should have been observable at X-ray wavelengths and Amelia Fraser-McKelvie’s discovery has proved the prediction to be correct.

Dr Kevin Pimbblet from the School of Astrophysics explains: “It was thought from a theoretical viewpoint that there should be about double the amount of matter in the local Universe 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.”

Up until this point in time, theories were based solely on numerical models, so Fraser-McKelvie’s observations represent a true break-through in determining just how much of this mass is caught in filamentary structure. “Most of the baryons in the Universe are thought to be contained within filaments of galaxies, but as yet, no single study has published the observed properties of a large sample of known filaments to determine typical physical characteristics such as temperature and electron density.” says Amelia. “We examine if a filament’s membership to a supercluster leads to an enhanced electron density as reported by Kull & Bohringer (1999). We suggest it remains unclear if supercluster membership causes such an enhancement.”

Still a year away from undertaking her Honors 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… and we can see why!


Tammy is a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She’s received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter's Gold Status.

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  • Plasma Physicist May 29, 2011, 3:26 PM

    Finding filaments by detecting the soft x-rays emitted, doesn’t mean that the “missing mass” has been found. Some of the missing mass has been found, but no way close to finding ALL of the mass in ALL of the filaments. Scientists have been detecting the WHIM filaments in the IGM and the Hot IGM before. Taotao Fang is the expert on the matter, and stated he looked right through a long filament connecting the sculptor wall of galaxies, with a blazer and huge black hole. Fang has stated BEFORE in the discovery last year, of this same missing baryonic mass, that these filaments are easy to see right through, and scientists look through them all the time. Their density is only about 6 protons per cubic meter, and temp is ~1 million degrees. They intertwine into knots, and pervade permeate the entire galaxy as a flowing plasma. The interpretation of these findings, is what this is all about, and in no way does it support the big-bang theory. There is NO DISPUTE that the WHIM and these huge plasma filaments ACCOUNT FOR MOST OF THE MASS OF THE UNIVERSE! Half the atomic matter in the universe could be in the WHIM. The WHIM is not at all fictional, as this discovery proves, and there is a LOT more filaments that new telescopes will be able to observe. New telescopes are already under construction and being built, so that we can directly observe cosmic filaments ! Until that time, plasma astrophysics remains in its youth.


  • Peter John Schoen June 6, 2011, 2:48 AM

    If we consider the Entire universe as a body of energy so that if it were a Near-Vacuum we would have a near zero potential with near maximum Kinetic energy, to which on compression to some of the Near-Vacuum and or via introducing opposing velocities, KE is converted to PE and or a Relative Solid..

    For example let height represent PE and width represent KE so that for a relative solid we may model the following “=” which if uncompressed would presents as a Relative Near Vacuum “–”
    as in minimum PE or height and maximum KE or width..

    Or to consider it the another way..

    —- here we have four units of energy and in order to convert KE “width” to PE “height” we need to have half of the model with maximum velocity “c” to the left and the other half to the Right @c
    the result is a relative near solid “=” in the midst “-=-” where the upper 2D body could be treated to be @c relative to the lower 2D body which is also @c but mind you in the opposite direction, in reality they are in fact enmeshed and so this new Potential presents with zero velocity and or this theoretical particle expresses zero charge.. as for the two outer trailing potentials, they now can be referred to as the relative solids reason for experiencing gravity, there is also one more thing and that is to model the following is in fact inaccurate “-=- as the relative solid in the midst should have been actually modelled as such “|” rather than as per the following “=”

    The reason I modelled it as such “=” was so that I could explain how KE is converted to PE..
    in reality..

    I now have a question based upon the following 2D model..

    if the above model were allowed to behave as per the laws of Physics via the 2 defined dimensions height and width or PE & KE.. what would occur to the three theoretical compression points applied by the highly kinetic mass surrounding them?
    You would be correct if you expressed the near vacuum would repulse them together and perhaps may even cause them to spin around the main compression point and or any other compression point, much like our moon does..

  • Peter John Schoen June 6, 2011, 2:53 AM

    Dark Energy and Dark Matter is good as phased out! These inferences only came about via the total lack of proper physical understanding..