A team of international scientists has discovered hundreds of hidden galaxies hidden from view until now by our own galaxy, the Milky Way, some 250 million light years away from the Earth.
The discovery may help explain the mysterious gravitational anomaly dubbed the Great Attractor region which appears to be drawing the Milky Way and hundreds of thousands of other galaxies towards it with a gravitational force equivalent to a million billion Suns.
According to lead author professor Lister Staveley-Smith from University of Western Australia node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), the team found 883 galaxies, a third of which had never been seen before.
“The Milky Way is very beautiful and it’s very interesting to study our own galaxy but it completely blocks out the view of the more distant galaxies behind it,” he said.
Scientists have been trying to get to the bottom of the mysterious Great Attractor since major deviations from universal expansion were first discovered in the 1970s and 1980s.
“We don’t actually understand what’s causing this gravitational acceleration on the Milky Way or where it’s coming from,” he added.
y using Australia’s chief scientific body CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope, located in the middle of a sheep paddock in central New South Wales state and used in NASA’s Apollo missions, the team were able to see through the stars and dust of the Milky Way into Zone of Avoidance.
The Parkes radio receiver, known in Australia as The Dish, has recently been fitted with innovative technologies, such as a 21-cm multi-beam receiver, that allow scientists to map the sky 13 times faster that they could before.
With the telescope, the researchers identified several new structures that could help to explain the movement of the Milky Way.
“With the 21-cm multibeam receiver on Parkes we’re able to map the sky 13 times faster than we could before and make new discoveries at a much greater rate,” said Renee Kraan-Korteweg, professor of Astronomy at University of Cape Town.
An average galaxy contains 100 billion stars so finding hundreds of new galaxies hidden behind the Milky Way points to a lot of mass scientist didn’t know about until now.
The study, published in the Astronomical Journal, involved researchers from Australia, South Africa, the US and the Netherlands.