A team of international scientists have found the last batch of ordinary matter hiding out in the universe, a new study in the journal Nature reports.
Ordinary matter — also known as “baryons” — makes up all physical objects in existence. However, though astronomers have long know that, they have only been able to track down roughly two-thirds of the amount physicists predicted was created by the Big Bang.
For the new research, scientists discovered the last missing third in the space between galaxies. Research shows it exists as filaments of oxygen gas that sit at temperatures of roughly 1,800,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
This discovery is extremely important for the field of astrophysics because it could create a much better picture of how the universe first came about.
“This is one of the key pillars of testing the Big Bang theory: figuring out the baryon census of hydrogen and helium and everything else in the periodic table,” said study co-author Michael Shull, a researcher at the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS), according to Science Daily.
Roughly 10 percent of ordinary matter sits in galaxies and 60 percent is in diffuse clouds that hang between galaxies.
Back in 2012 researchers predicted the missing 30 percent sat in a web-like pattern known as the warm-hot intergalactic medium (WHIM).
To test that theory, the team in the new study pointed satellites at a quasar known as 1ES 1553. Such bodies are black holes that sit at the center of their galaxy. Analyzing them is important because, by seeing how quasar radiation moves through space scientists can track missing baryons.
Using such information from 1ES 1553, the team discovered signatures of a type of highly-ionized oxygen gas lying between the quasar and our solar system.
That accounts for the missing matter, which then helps build a much more complete picture of the universe. Both for how it came about and the way it go to its current state.
“[T]he missing baryons have been found,” wrote the team, according to Gizmodo.