Scientists Discovered Hundreds Of New Galaxies Behind The Milky Way

by Sean Levinson
Getty Images

Hundreds of previously undiscovered galaxies were reportedly found hiding behind the Milky Way.

The stars, dust and general mass of the Milk Way blocks out about 20 percent of the sky, an area called the Zone of Avoidance (ZOA). This prevents optical telescopes from seeing distant galaxies glimmering behind our own, according to The Washington Post.

But, scientists from Australia, South Africa, the Netherlands and the US were recently able to access the ZOA by way of Australia's Parkes radio telescope, which detects radio waves.

The team found 883 galaxies within 250 million light-years from Earth.

These galaxies, approximately a third of which had never been discovered before now, are actually located relatively close to the Milky Way in cosmic terms.

They may also be the explanation for the Great Attractor, an area of space pulling all local galaxies such as the Milky Way toward it with vast gravitational force.

In a statement, lead author Lister Staveley-Smith of the University of Western Australia said,

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 toward them at more than 2 million kilometers per hour.

That last figure is equivalent to over 1.2 million mph, or the force of a million billion suns, Discovery News reports.

In a press release, researcher Renée Kraan-Korteweg of the University of Cape Town said,

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.

The next step is to determine the mass of these galaxies to see if they are, in fact, powerful enough to exude such force.

If the answer is no, the reason the Milky Way drifts in a certain direction with incredible speed will remain a mystery.

This research was originally published on Tuesday in The Astronomical Journal.

Citations: Hundreds of galaxies found hiding behind the Milky Way (The Washington Post), Hundreds of Galaxies Found Hiding Behind Milky Way (Discovery News)