NASA Satellite Will Probe Milky Way Halo In A Quest To Find Universe's Missing Matter

Posted: Jul 21 2018, 8:18am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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NASA Satellite will Probe Milky Way Halo in a Quest to Find Universe's Missing Matter
HaloSat, a new CubeSat mission to study the halo of hot gas surrounding the MilkyWay. Credit: NanoRacks/NASA

HaloSat will search for the universe’s missing matter by studying X-rays from hot gas surrounding our Milky Way galaxy

All the matter in the universe exists in the form of either invisible dark matter or normal matter that makes up everything we know. But until now, researchers had only been able to find about two-thirds of the possible normal matter in the universe. They think that the rest of this normal matter may lie within gas-filled halos around galaxies instead of their main bulk.

On July 13, a new NASA-sponsored mini satellite, called HaloSat, has been released from the International Space Station. The satellite will study X-rays from hot gas surrounding the Milky Way and will determine how much missing matter is in the halo of our galaxy.

Observations of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), which is is the oldest light in the universe, provides a remarkable window onto the structure and composition of the early universe. Calculations based on CMB observations indicate that normal matter which makes up galaxies, stars and planets, corresponds to 5% of the Universe. But when astronomers tally the estimated masses of these objects, about half of the matter from early astronomical observations cannot be found.

“We should have all the matter today that we had back when the universe was 400,000 years old,” said Philip Kaaret, HaloSat’s principal investigator at the University of Iowa. “Where did it go? The answer to that question can help us learn how we got from the CMB’s uniform state to the large-scale structures we see today.”

Very hot halos of gas around galaxies offer the best chance to search for missing matter. These haloes have been observed before, but they are so faint that X-rays coming from them become lost and are hard to distinguish from background radiation.

HaloSat will study gas in the Milky Way’s halo that runs about 2 million degrees Celsius. At such high temperatures, oxygen atoms produce the X-rays HaloSat will measure. These measurements will help scientists search for the missing matter in the universe.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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