In a development that could finally shed light on dark matter, an international team of scientists for the first time discovered neutral hydrogen atoms from a galaxy other than ours.
The finding came thanks to the huge spherical radio telescope (FAST) with a length of 500 meters, which is located in a hilly, green natural pool in the southwestern Chinese province of Guizhou.
The researchers discovered hydrogen from three extragalactic galaxies with only five minutes of exposure, a feat that demonstrates the telescope’s exceptional sensitivity. It is the first time that neutral hydrogen has been detected from outside the Milky Way.
“With measurements of neutral hydrogen and carbon monoxide, scientists can estimate the dynamic mass of galaxies at different radii and further investigate the distribution of baryons [a type of subatomic particle] and dark matter “ explained Dr. Cheng Cheng, first author of the research.
Dark matter is a form of matter that is believed to make up 85 percent of the matter in the universe, but has not been discovered directly, despite the best efforts by researchers. Finding it would finally solve one of the most scratching puzzles in science.
The groundbreaking FAST observation shows the contribution of dark matter and shows the potential to investigate the mysterious matter in galaxies using neutral hydrogen.
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The detection of extragalactic neutral hydrogen is one of the main goals of the enormous telescope and is made possible by the enormous size of the single shell. It is not only the world’s largest radio telescope with a filled aperture, but also the second largest single-bowl telescope after the Russian RATAN-600.
The 1.2 billion yuan ($ 170 million) machine, nicknamed Tianyan (“Eye of the Sky”), is made up of approximately 4,400 aluminum plates and has more than 2,000 winches that are used to direct it to different parts of the sky can be.
Dr. Cheng said the team is requesting more FAST observation time to further investigate the neutral hydrogen properties.
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