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Although dark matter continues to elude direct detection, scientists likewise remain baffled as to where all of the regular matter is. Now, a team of astronomers says it has found evidence for some of this missing regular (or “baryonic”) matter; they say it takes the form of lightless “snow clouds” made of hydrogen. And the team found the elemental ghosts right here in the Milky Way.

Wired reported on the discovery, which a team of astronomers—led by Yuanming Wang at the University of Sydney—recently published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Wang actually invented a novel technique for detecting baryonic matter, deployed in this situation to find the hydrogen snow clouds.

Matthew Hart

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Fri, February 26, 2021, 3:11 PM

Although dark matter continues to elude direct detection, scientists likewise remain baffled as to where all of the regular matter is. Now, a team of astronomers says it has found evidence for some of this missing regular (or “baryonic”) matter; they say it takes the form of lightless “snow clouds” made of hydrogen. And the team found the elemental ghosts right here in the Milky Way.

Wired reported on the discovery, which a team of astronomers—led by Yuanming Wang at the University of Sydney—recently published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Wang actually invented a novel technique for detecting baryonic matter, deployed in this situation to find the hydrogen snow clouds.

A team of astronomers has found evidence of hydrogen "snow clouds" in our own Milky Way galaxy.

A team of astronomers has found evidence of hydrogen "snow clouds" in our own Milky Way galaxy.

Mark Myers, OzGrav/Swinburne University

“We suspect that much of the ‘missing’ baryonic matter is in the form of cold gas clouds either in galaxies or between galaxies,” Wang, who’s pursuing her doctorate at the University of Sydney, said in a press release. “This gas is undetectable using conventional methods, as it emits no visible light of its own and is just too cold for detection via radio astronomy,” she added.

Wang’s ingenious method for detecting invisible baryonic matter consists of looking for distortions in radio waves permeating through space. Just as our atmosphere distorts visible light we see here on Earth—hence those forever shimmering stars—Wang proposed that radio-wave sources in space “shimmer” when they pass through matter.