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Astronomers have found some matter that had been missing in deep space and say it is strung along web-like filaments that form the backbone of the universe.
The ethereal strands of hydrogen and oxygen atoms could account for up to half the matter that scientists knew must be there but simply could not see, the researchers reported on Tuesday.
"It is kind of like a spider web. The gravity of the spider web is what produced what we see," Shull said in a telephone interview. "It's very thin. Some of it is very hot gas, almost a million degrees."
This is where the dark matter comes in. The dark matter is heating up the gas, Shull said.
"Dark matter has gravity. It pulls the gas in," Shull said. "This causes what I call sonic booms -- shock waves. This shock heats it to a million degrees. That makes it even harder to see."
The atoms of oxygen are in a stripped-down, ionized form. Five of the eight electrons are gone. It emits an ultraviolet spectrum of light that instruments aboard FUSE and Hubble can spot, Shull said.
These web-like filaments of matter are the structure upon which the galaxies form, he said.
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