The galaxies located in the Zone of Avoidance shed new light into the mysterious gravitational anomaly dubbed the Great Attractor.
Astronomers have discovered hundreds of ‘hidden’ galaxies right behind our own galaxy Milky Way.
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The region of space, which was just 250 million light years away from the Earth, was previously obscured by dust and gas of Milky Way. Now, a team of international researchers have used powerful CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope to see through this layer of dust and gas and found not just one or two galaxies but hundreds of galaxies lurking behind galaxy Milky Way.
The discovery will help understand the mysterious gravitational anomaly within intergalactic space called Great Attractor. Great Attractor is pulling the Milky Way and hundreds of thousands of other galaxies towards itself with a gravitational force which is equal to million billion Suns.
A total of 883 galaxies have been spotted by the team in this so-called “Zone of Avoidance” region and a third of which has not been detected before.
The Zone of Avoidance has been discovered in 1970s but it’s still a massive mystery for scientists. The region in the sky is blocked by interstellar dust and stars of our galaxy Milky Way.
In recent years, many projects have attempted to peek behind this mass of dust and stars and the latest project is yet another effort.
“The Milky Way is very beautiful of course and it’s interesting to study our own galaxy but it completely blocks out the view of more distant galaxies behind it,” said lead researcher Professor Lister Staveley-Smith, from University of Western Australia who is working at International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR).
“We know that in this region there are very few large collections of galaxies we call clusters or superclusters and our whole Milky Way is moving towards them at more than two million kilometers per hour. We don’t actually understand what’s causing this gravitational acceleration on the Milky Way or where it’s coming from.”
Using advanced radio technology, researchers are trying to map out how many more galaxies are hidden in the region.
“We’ have used a range of technologies but only radio observations have really succeeded in allowing us to see through the thickest foreground layer of dust and stars,” said University of Cape Town astronomer Professor Renée Kraan-Korteweg.
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“An average galaxy contains 100 billion stars, so finding hundreds of new galaxies hidden behind the Milky Way points to a lot of mass we didn’t know about until now.”