Astronomers think they’ve found a new clue in their continuing quest to solve one of the most substantial mysteries of the cosmos: where about a third of the universe’s matter is hiding.
That missing matter isn’t dark matter (a whole different head-scratcher), it’s perfectly normal, run-of-the-mill matter that scientists simply can’t find. And that makes it a massive cosmic annoyance for astronomers. But a team of researchers may have figured out a clue that will help them track down this missing matter, thanks to the NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.
“If we find this missing mass, we can solve one of the biggest conundrums in astrophysics,” lead author Orsolya Kovács, a doctoral student at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in a NASA statement. “Where did the universe stash so much of its matter that makes up stuff like stars and planets and us?”
Kovács and her research colleagues wanted to explore one popular theory: that the missing matter is hidden in the stringy filaments of warm gas that fill intergalactic space. Those filaments are typically hard to study, since telescopes tuned to the same light our eyes can see can’t register these structures.