Black Holes Banish Matter into Cosmic Voids: The Mystery of Missing Matter

First Posted: Feb 25, 2016 09:54 AM EST

Black holes may banish matter into cosmic voids. Researchers have announced that dark holes could contain as much as 20 percent of the "normal" matter in the cosmos and that galaxies make up only 1/500th of the volume of the universe.

Looking at cosmic microwave radiation, modern satellite observatories like COBE, WMAP and Planck have gradually refined our understanding of the composition of the universe. Most recent measurements, in fact, suggest that it consists of 4.9 percent "normal" matter, or "baryons," whereas 26.8 percent is the mysterious and unseen dark matter and 68.3 percent is the more mysterious dark energy.

Ground-based observatories have mapped the positions of galaxies and, indirectly, their associated dark matter over large volumes, showing they are located in filaments that make up a "cosmic web." In this latest study, the researchers investigated this in more detail, using data from the Illustris project, a large computer simulation of the evolution and formation of galaxies.

When the researchers looked at the data, they found that about 50 percent of the total mass of the universe is in the places where galaxies reside, compressed into a volume of .2 percent of the universe we see and a further 44 percent is in the enveloping filaments. Just 6 percent is located in the voids, which make up 80 percent of the volume. In addition, a surprising fraction of normal matter, about 20 percent, is likely to have been transported into the voids. It's like the culprit is supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies.

"This simulation, one of the most sophisticated ever run, suggests that the black holes at the center of every galaxy are helping to send matter into the loneliest places in the universe," said Markus Haider, one of the researchers, in a news release. "What we want to do now is refine our model, and confirm these initial findings."

The findings are published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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