Scientists have discovered hundreds of galaxies hidden behind the Milky Way. The finding has offered astronomers new insights into a mysterious gravitational anomaly called the Great Attractor. Findings of the study were published in the Astrophysical Journal. The Great Attractor consists of galaxy superclusters and clusters. Our Milky Way galaxy is moving towards the Great Attractor at over 2 million kilometers per hour, said lead author Lister Staveley-Smith of the University of Western Australia.
Milky Way’s starry dust obscured the region
Astronomers have been trying to map the galaxies hidden behind the Milky Way since deviations in the rate of expansion of the universe in this region were detected in the 1970s. Past measurements suggested that several hundreds of galaxies, including ours, are being pulled towards the Great Attractor, whose gravitational force is as powerful as a million billion stars.
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Until now, the Milky Way’s thick layers of dust, gas, and sunlight obscured the region that is just 250 million light years away. “It completely blocks out the view of the more distant galaxies behind it,” said Professor Staveley-Smith. Astronomers used a receiver installed on the Parkes Radio Telescope to peer through the Milky Way’s starry dust and into the unexplored region of space.
833 galaxies identified
Scientists were able to identify 833 galaxies, about a third of which had never been seen before. Three newly discovered galaxy concentrations were named NW1, NW2, and NW3, while two other clusters were named CW1 and CW2. Though galaxies in this region are similar to the rest of the universe, the density of galaxies is higher than others in the nearby universe. Their higher density may be contributing to the gravitation pull that the Great Attractor is exerting on Milky Way and other nearby galaxies.
Astronomers have also identified a few structures that might offer clues to the nature of the region’s magnetism. Now they have hundreds of new galaxies for further observation. An average galaxy has about 100 billion stars. So, the team has discovered a lot of mass that we didn’t know about until now.