Cosmic bursts unveil universe's missing matter - The Science Show

Cosmic Fast Radio Bursts Detect Universe’s “Missing Matter” – Solving a Decades-Old Mystery

"We know from measurements of the Big Bang how much matter there was in the beginning of the Universe", Macquart said in a statement.

In a significant development, atronomers have succeeded in solving a decades-old mystery of "missing matter" by using mysterious fast radio bursts.

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"But when we looked out into the present Universe, we couldn't find half of what should be there".

The online pubcalition mentions that in a new study, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, Macquart, and a team of global astronomers are addressing this massive discovery for the first time.

The experts revealed the ways in which a unusual stream of signals that have been sent from deep space have helped solving a lingering mystery about the normal matter in the universe.

Radio astronomers from around the world have been glued to their sets for decades to listen to that one sound from somewhere in space which would prove that an alien life, sufficiently advanced, exists somewhere in our universe.

They found out that even if dark energy is hundred times the amount in our own universe, galaxies can still be formed, making up a parallel Universe and then becoming home to a life. The latter constituents make up around 95% of the known universe and are incredibly mysterious. Astronomers don't know what causes them, but the leading theory is that they come from pulsars or magnetars. Instead, what the team detected is so-called "normal" or baryonic matter - like the protons and neutrons that make up stars, planets and people.

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That the missing matter was found floating in the vastness of the intergalactic medium is not a huge surprise, but scientists hadn't been able to detect and measure it before.

Macquart, an astronomer at the International Radio Astronomy Research Center in Australia, and his team have been searching the cosmos for rapid radio bursts, or FRBs, using a wide variety of telescopes in the Australian outback known as the Australian Square Kilometer Pathfinder.

The scientists used the phenomenon called fast radio bursts to directly identify the missing matter.

It is thought this missing matter is located in intergalactic space-the voids between galaxies-and teams of scientists are using different techniques to pinpoint it.

Illustration of a fast radio burst (FRB) travelling from its host galaxy to Earth. The measurement allows the academics to estimate the amount of missing matter in the universe.

"As the radio waves travel across the cosmos, they interact with the free electrons, smearing the radio signal", says Geraint Lewis, an astrophysicist at the University of Sydney who was not affiliated with the study.

ASKAP is a precursor for the future Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope. It's this smearing of the radio signal that was key to finding the missing matter.

"The discovery of fast radio bursts and their localization to distant galaxies were the key breakthroughs needed to solve this mystery", he said.

The team will continue looking for FRBs with ASKAP, and Macquart notes they are building a "ginormous machine" that will be able to find more of the bursts, increasing the rate of detection 20-fold. Such a leap could enable the team to pick up 100 of the signals within a year and help reshape how we view the universe, back to its earliest days. This is not about the still illusive dark matter. One that speaks to the practicalities of existence a little more.

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