Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Undergraduate Solves Mystery of the Universe

Not THE mystery of the universe, but a part of a major one that's been bugging astrophysicists for the last few years: "Where the hell is the missing mass"?
A SUMMER internship to learn more about astrophysics turned into a stunning coup for Monash undergraduate Amelia Fraser-McKelvie when she helped solve one of the big mysteries of science.

Astrophysicists have long been baffled by a belief that the universe must have a greater mass than is visible in the planets, dust and stars that make up much of what can be seen. But they had no way of proving it. They estimated that about half the mass required to keep the universe functioning as it does was ''missing''.

Ms Fraser-McKelvie found some, and her discovery will aid the development of telescopes in Australia. The 22-year-old aerospace engineering student, who works with Monash astrophysicists Kevin Pimbblet and Jasmina Lazendic-Galloway, explained. ''If we're looking very, very long distances from Earth we're detecting mass, but if we're looking closer to Earth we only see about half the mass that we're expecting to see,'' she said. ''This is what is called the missing mass problem. People have theorized that this mass has settled in filaments that extend between clusters of galaxies, so we tested and confirmed this prediction by detecting it in the filaments.''
This pretty amazing, but I hope it doesn't make my summer intern imagine she'll solve one of the great mysteries of the universe.  If it so happens, great. 

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