Saturday, May 28, 2011

Universe's "missing mass" discovered

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Psalms 8:3-4

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Psalms 19:1

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 4:11

As reported by Monash University on May 23, 2011:

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...

... 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 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,” 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.

Go here to see the abstract of the original article.

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