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22-year-old college student unlocks one of the universe's secrets

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 31st, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A humble 22-year-old Australian university student has helped solved one of the mysteries of the universe during her summer break. Amelia Fraser-McKelvie discovered part of the so-called "missing mass" of the universe which has puzzled astrophysicists for decades.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Fraser-McKelvie during a holiday internship with a team at Monash University's School of Physics located the mystery material within vast structures called "filaments of galaxies."

Monash astrophysicist Dr Kevin Pimbblet explained that scientists had previously detected matter that was present in the early history of the universe that previously could not be located.

"There is missing mass, ordinary mass not dark mass ... It's missing to the present day," Pimbblet said.

"We don't know where it went. Now we do know where it went because that's what Amelia found."

Fraser-McKelvie, an aerospace engineering and science student, was able to confirm following an X-ray search for the mystery mass that it had moved to the "filaments of galaxies," which stretch across enormous expanses of space.

Pimbblet's work had suggested the filaments as a possible location for the "missing" matter, thought to be low in density but high in temperature.

Astrophysicists had known about the "missing" mass for the past 20 years, but the technology needed to pinpoint its location had only become available in recent years.

Pimbblet said the discovery could drive the construction of new telescopes designed to specifically study the mass.

He admitted that the discovery was primarily academic, but he said previous physics research had led to the development of diverse other technologies.

"Whenever I speak to people who have influence, politicians and so on, they sometimes ask me 'Why should I invest in physics pure research?' And I sometimes say to them: 'Do you use a mobile phone? Some of that technology came about by black hole research.'

"The pure research has knock-on effects to the whole society which are sometimes difficult to anticipate."

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