"Artist's impression of the expected dark matter distribution around the Milky Way" by ESO/L. Calçada / CC BY 4.0

Intergalactic Pulses Solve Mystery of Universe’s Missing Matter

May 29, 2020

By George Dvorsky

Scientists have spent three decades trying to locate half of all the “normal” matter that’s supposed to exist in the universe. A new paper is claiming to have finally found this missing stuff, in a discovery made possible by measuring incoming fast radio bursts.

“We know from measurements of the Big Bang how much matter there was in the beginning of the Universe,” explained Jean-Pierre Macquart, an astrophysicist from Curtin University and the lead author of the new Nature paper, in a press release. “But when we looked out into the present Universe, we couldn’t find half of what should be there. It was a bit of an embarrassment.”

By missing matter, Macquart is referring to baryonic matter—the kind of matter we can touch and see—as opposed to dark matter, which is another story altogether. Baryonic matter, composed of neutrons and protons, makes up all the stuff we can detect around us, from planets, people, and polar bears through to clouds and iPhones. Theoretical predictions suggest baryonic matter makes up between 4 to 5 percent of all the stuff in the universe, yet scientists were only able to account for around half of this, in a bookkeeping anomaly of cosmic proportions.

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