This missing matter — which is different from dark matter -- is composed of baryons, the particles, such as protons and electrons, that are found on the Earth, in stars, gas, galaxies, and so on. A variety of measurements of distant gas clouds and galaxies have provided a good estimate of the amount of this "normal matter" present when the universe was only a few billion years old. However, an inventory of the much older, nearby universe has turned up only about half as much normal matter, an embarrassingly large shortfall.
The mystery then is where does this missing matter reside in the nearby Universe? This latest work supports predictions that it is mostly found in a web of hot, diffuse gas known as the Warm-Hot Intergalactic Medium (WHIM). Scientists think the WHIM is material left over after the formation of galaxies, which was later enriched by elements blown out of galaxies.
"Evidence for the WHIM is really difficult to find because this stuff is so diffuse and easy to see right through," said Taotao Fang of the University of California at Irvine and lead author of the latest study. "This differs from many areas of astronomy where we struggle to see through obscuring material."
To look for the WHIM, the researchers examined X-ray observations of a rapidly growing supermassive black hole known as an active galactic nucleus, or AGN. This AGN, which is about two billion light years away, generates immense amounts of X-ray light as it pulls matter inwards.
Lying along the line of sight to this AGN, at a distance of about 400 million light years, is the so-called Sculptor Wall. This "wall", which is a large diffuse structure stretching across tens of millions of light years, contains thousands of galaxies and potentially a significant reservoir of the WHIM if the theoretical simulations are correct. The WHIM in the wall should absorb some of the X-rays from the AGN as they make their journey across intergalactic space to Earth.
Using new data from Chandra and previous observations with both Chandra and XMM-Newton, absorption of X-rays by oxygen atoms in the WHIM has clearly been detected by Fang and his colleagues. The characteristics of the absorption are consistent with the distance of the Sculptor Wall as well as the predicted temperature and density of the WHIM. This result gives scientists confidence that the WHIM will also be found in other large-scale structures.
Several previous claimed detections of the hot component of the WHIM have been controversial because the detections had been made with only one X-ray telescope and the statistical significance of many of the results had been questioned.
"Having good detections of the WHIM with two different telescopes is really a big deal," said co-author David Buote, also from the University of California at Irvine. "This gives us a lot of confidence that we have truly found this missing matter."
In addition to having corroborating data from both Chandra and XMM-Newton, the new study also removes another uncertainty from previous claims. Because the distance of the Sculptor Wall is already known, the statistical significance of the absorption detection is greatly enhanced over previous "blind" searches. These earlier searches attempted to find the WHIM by observing bright AGN at random directions on the sky, in the hope that their line of sight intersects a previously undiscovered large-scale structure.
Confirmed detections of the WHIM have been made difficult because of its extremely low density. Using observations and simulations, scientists calculate the WHIM has a density equivalent to only 6 protons per cubic meter. For comparison, the interstellar medium -- the very diffuse gas in between stars in our galaxy -- typically has about a million hydrogen atoms per cubic meter.People Who Read This Also Read...
There have been important detections of possible WHIM in the nearby Universe with relatively low temperatures of about 100,000 degrees using ultraviolet observations and relatively high temperature WHIM of about 10 million degrees using observations of X-ray emission in galaxy clusters. However, these are expected to account for only a relatively small fraction of the WHIM. The X-ray absorption studies reported here probe temperatures of about a million degrees where most of the WHIM is predicted to be found.
These results appear in the May 10th issue of The Astrophysical Journal. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra's science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.
More information, including images and other multimedia, can be found at:http://chandra.harvard.edu and http://chandra.nasa.gov
Megan Watzke | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > AGN > Ancient Mass Extinction > Astrophysical > Earth's magnetic field > Missing Persons > Observatory > Sculptor > Universe > WHIM > X-ray microscopy > X-rays > XMM-Newton > black populations > dark matter > galaxy cluster > gravitational effect > hydrogen atom > oxygen atom
Matter falling into a black hole at 30 percent of the speed of light
24.09.2018 | Royal Astronomical Society
Scientists solve the golden puzzle of calaverite
24.09.2018 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology
The building blocks of matter in our universe were formed in the first 10 microseconds of its existence, according to the currently accepted scientific picture. After the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, matter consisted mainly of quarks and gluons, two types of elementary particles whose interactions are governed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interaction. In the early universe, these particles moved (nearly) freely in a quark-gluon plasma.
This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.
Then, in a phase transition, they combined and formed hadrons, among them the building blocks of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons. In the current issue of...
Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.
"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...
A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.
Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...
Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.
An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome, providing the research community with an invaluable resource to decode the response of fish to...
21.09.2018 | Event News
03.09.2018 | Event News
27.08.2018 | Event News
24.09.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
24.09.2018 | Earth Sciences
24.09.2018 | Health and Medicine