What the Universe is Made Of: Cosmic Web Recorded

First Posted: Dec 02, 2015 04:38 PM EST

Matter makes up only about 5 percent of the universe, and about half of this matter eludes detection. So where is it? Scientists are now taking a closer look and have found that the majority of missing ordinary matter is found in the form of a very hot gas associated with intergalactic filaments.

Galaxies are formed when ordinary matter collapses then cools down. In order to understand the origin of this formation, it's important to understand in what form and where the original matter that we do not perceive is found. That's why researchers took a closer look at Abell2744, which is a massive cluster of galaxies with a complex distribution of dark and luminous matter at its center.

The researchers observed this cluster with the XMM space telescope in order to detect very hot gas. Other large-scale galaxy surveys have shown the distribution of ordinary matter in the universe is not homogeneous. Instead, under the action of gravity, matter is concentrated into filamentary structures, forming a network of knots and links called the "cosmic web." The regions experiencing the highest gravitational force collapse and form knots of the network, such as Abell 2744. These knots then connect to one another through filaments, where the researchers identified the presence of gas. This, in particular, is where the missing matter was hiding.

In the end, the researchers measured for the first time ever the temperature and density of these filaments. This revealed that they corresponded to predictions in numerical models, which means that scientists have a better grasp of the universe and where "missing" matter may be.

The findings are published in the journal Nature.

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