Using some accurate scientific measurements, researchers have been able to estimate the amount of matter present in the Universe at the time the Big Bang occurred. The issue, however, until now, is that they could not actually find half of what is supposed to be there.
Now, by employing the enigmatic fast radio bursts (FRBs), experts from Curtin University have finally discovered the missing matter in the immense space between stars and galaxies. The particular matter is known as baryonic matter, and it is made of neutrons and protons, forming all the things we can touch and see, unlike dark matter.
According to lead author associate Professor Jean-Pierre Macquart, researchers have been searching for this matter for about 30 years.
“But when we looked out into the present Universe, we couldn’t find half of what should be there. It was a bit of an embarrassment,” he said. “Intergalactic space is very sparse. The missing matter was equivalent to only one or two atoms in a room the size of an average office.”
Solving the Mystery
For this reason, it has been challenging to identify this matter using classical techniques and telescopes. However, the scientists were finally able to find it by employing the phenomenon of FRBs, which are short bursts of energy that come from random places in the sky and last for milliseconds. Researchers do not know yet what exactly causes them, and their haphazardness makes it challenging to detect.
However, as Professor Macquart explained, by leveraging these FRBs as ‘cosmic weigh stations,’ the team of researchers could detect the missing matter.
“The radiation from fast radio bursts gets spread out by the missing matter in the same way that you see the colors of sunlight being separated in a prism,” he said. “We’ve now been able to measure the distances to enough fast radio bursts to determine the density of the Universe.”
The team only needed to analyze six of these to explain all the missing matter, complying with a measured density close to pre-existing measurements of how much there should be present around the Universe, and offering astrophysicists some clues to an otherwise impeding mystery they have been looking to solve for decades.