I know, I know, you’re probably getting sick of hearing this. Astronomers have no idea what 95% of the Universe is; 70% is dark energy, and 25% is dark matter, leaving a mere 5% normal matter. But it gets worse. Astronomers can only actually account for about 60% of that regular matter (hydrogen, helium and heavier elements) – almost half of the regular matter is missing too!
I’ll repeat that, just so it’s clear. Of the 5% of the Universe that we can even understand, almost half of it is missing too.
Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder have used a powerful supercomputer at the San Diego Supercomputing Center to try and figure out where this missing mass could be hiding, and they think they’ve got a good place to look.
They built up a simulation of a huge chunk of Universe, 1.5 billion light-years on a side. Within this simulated Universe, they saw that much of the gas in the Universe forms into a tangled web of filaments that stretch for hundreds of million of light-years. In between these filaments are vast spherical voids without any matter.
The simulation works by modeling how material came together through gravity after the Big Bang. The simulation predicts that this missing material is hiding within gas clouds called the Warm-Hot Intergalactic Medium.
If their predictions are correct, the next generation of telescopes should be able to detect this missing mass in these hidden filaments. Some of these telescopes include the 10-metre South Pole Telescope in Antarctica and the 25-metre Cornell-Caltech Atacama Telescope (CCAT).
The South Pole Telescope will look at how the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation is heated up as it passes through clouds of this gas. CCAT will be able to look back to periods just after the Big Bang, and see how the first large scale structures started to come together.
At least then, we’ll probably know where all that 5% of regular mass is. Dark matter and dark energy? Still a mystery.
Original Source: CU-Boulder News Release