Scientists just discovered hundreds of hidden galaxies behind the Milky Way, reported Fox News.
The discovery was made possible thanks to a new telescope view taken using an Australian radio telescope installed at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) Parkes Observatory in Australia. Despite being 250 million light years away from the Milky Way, which is very close if regarded on an astronomical scale, these galaxies were hidden from view until now.
Powered by a 21-centimeter (8.3-inches) multibeam receiver, the radio telescope was able to map the sky 13 times faster than the most recent observation taken by the observatory, allowing the scientists to explore previously hidden regions behind the dust and gas of the Milky Way.
We are currently switching from the 1050 to the Multibeam receiver. We'll observe at 1400 MHz. pic.twitter.com/xjZaNNKFfY
— PULSE@Parkes (@PULSEatParkes) May 20, 2015
Lister Staveley-Smith, science director of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) confirmed that the team found 883 galaxies behind the Milky Way, one third of which have never been observed before.
“The Milky Way is very beautiful, of course, and it’s very interesting to study our own galaxy, but it completely blocks out the view of the more distant galaxies behind it.”
— The Australian (@australian) February 10, 2016
The discovery of hidden galaxies behind the Milky Way bolsters the theory of the Great Attractor, a region of space that scientists say pulls on the Milky Way and thousands of other galaxies with a force equivalent to a million billion suns. Scientists have been doing extensive research to learn more about the Great Attractor since finding major deviations in space in the 1970s.
Scientists and researchers have suspected for decades that the Milky Way and its neighboring galaxies are headed towards a blank region in space at around 14 million miles an hour. Realizing that the figure doesn’t coincide with the speed with which the universe is thought to be expanding, experts hypothesized the existence of the Great Attractor region, which pulls on these galaxies (including the Milky Way) with the force of a million billion suns.
“We don’t actually understand what’s causing this gravitational acceleration on the Milky Way or where it’s coming from.”
“We know that in this region there are a few very large collections of galaxies we call clusters or superclusters, and our whole Milky Way is moving towards them at more than two million kilometers [1.2 million miles] per hour.”
“It seems that the Great Attractor consists of many galaxies and clusters of galaxies lying in a very large region of space. Just why such a large overdensity of galaxies lies in that region is a mystery, although cosmological theory does seem to confirm that, occasionally, such large mass concentrations should occur.”
— Rik Aerts (@rik_aerts) February 10, 2016
The discovery should prove valuable to scientists in terms of learning more about the movement of the Milky Way in space. By identifying new structures in space, including three new galaxy concentrations (NW1, NW2 and NW3) and two new clusters (CW1 and CW2), scientists have taken a major leap in mapping out galaxy distribution.
Renée Kraan-Korteweg from University of Cape Town said that scientists and researchers have been trying to observe the region behind the Milky Way for decades, reported Astronomy Magazine.
“We’ve used a range of techniques, but only radio observations have really succeeded in allowing us to see through the thickest foreground layer of dust and stars.
“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.”
Renée also pointed out that finding hundreds of galaxies behind the Milky Way isn’t very surprising, given the large amount of dust and stars blocking their view. But while the team expected to spot hundreds of galaxies behind the Milky Way, they had no idea about their distribution in space. Their new discovery, however, made it all possible.
[Image via ICRAR]