A recent study by scientists from the University of Geneva has shed light on the composition of the universe. Although ordinary matter makes up only 5 percent of the universe and approximately half of this amount, the "missing baryons," has eluded the detection of scientists thus far, the study found that the rest of this percentage is in the form of a "cosmic web" of hot gas that associates with intergalactic filaments that exist at temperatures between 100,000 and 10 million degrees.
Identifying the nature of ordinary matter that we cannot see is important in order to understand the origins of galaxy formation, which occurs when ordinary matter collapses and then subsequently cools down. Using the XMM space telescope, which is capable of detecting the signatures of very hot gases, they examined Abell 2744, a large cluster of galaxies that possesses a strange distribution of dark, luminous matter at its core. The findings validated previous predictions that the elusive percentage of ordinary matter is held in a "cosmic web."
"Now we must verify that the discovery of Abell 2744's missing baryons is applicable to the entire universe," said Dominique Eckert, lead scientist of the study, according to Phys.org. "This will consist in studying these filamentary regions in detail, and measuring their temperature distribution and the various atoms that compose them, in order to understand how many heavy elements there are in the universe."
If these efforts prove successful, researchers will be able to approximate the amount of heavy nuclei that have been formed by stars since the beginning of the universe and shed light on many intergalactic mysteries.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is currently developing a new space telescope called Athena to help the University of Geneva scientists continue this research.