Despite having a pretty good understanding of the universe there are still vast chunks of it that are just missing.
For example, our current models of the universe suggest that there should be roughly twice as much ordinary matter than what we’ve observed so far.
Yet every observation made in the past has been unable to find that missing half. Until now that is.
Two independent teams believe they have found that missing matter, made up of particles called baryons. These particles serve a rather poetic role in the universe as they form a vast web, linking galaxies together through filaments of hot gas.
Until now, the matter just hasn’t been hot enough to spot using X-ray, so the two teams, from France and the UK, had to come up with a new means of detecting it.
The teams took advantage of something called the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect. This allows astronomers to measure the light left over from the Big Bang as it passes through gasses.
Using data from the Planck satellite, the teams were able to combine galaxy data in bulk and compare them to see the tiny differences that might highlight these filaments.
What they found was this huge interlocking web of baryon particles.
While this is clearly a major breakthrough in understanding what makes up the universe, the team from the University of Edinburgh believe it can still only account for 30% of the baryon matter in the universe.
Both teams have pre-published their findings on the website arxiv.org ahead of being peer-reviewed.