Saturday, May 28, 2011
One major source for all this missing stuff, are massive cosmic structures called filaments, described as giant "strings" of baryons existing primarily in gaseous form which connect the seemingly empty space in clusters of galaxies. Though the matter contained within these galactic filaments was theorized to be low in density, but very high in temperature (approximately one million degrees Celsius) meaning, it should have been possible to detect the matter utilizing the x-ray spectrum, it had thus far only been described mathematically- until now.
22-year-old Australian grad student, Amelia Fraser-McKelvie, along with astrophysicists, Dr Jasmina Lazendic-Galloway and Dr Kevin Pimbblet, have managed to confirm the existence of this missing matter while analyzing a set of targeted x-ray data. Amelia, who is being credited with the initial find, was just three months into her summer internship when the discovery was made, and said the ‘Eureka moment’ came when Dr Lazendic-Galloway closely examined the data they had collected.
“Using her expert knowledge in the X-ray astronomy field, Jasmina re-analyzed our results to find that we had in fact detected the filaments in the results, where previously we believed we had not.”
While DR. Pimbblet, who will be supervising McKelvie for the remainder of her time at University, acknowledges that his student's find is primarily an academic one, he is also careful to point out that discoveries like this can often have an unforeseen impact on technologies, saying:
"The pure research has knock-on effects to the whole society which are sometimes difficult to anticipate."
"Whenever I speak to people who have influence, politicians and so on, they sometimes ask me 'Why should I invest in physics pure research?'. And I sometimes say to them: 'Do you use a mobile phone? Some of that technology came about by black hole research'."