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Hidden Galaxies Have Just Been Discovered Beyond the Milky Way, and There’s Hundreds!

Scientists have found more than 800 galaxies hiding behind our Milky Way. Using the CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope in Australia, the international team of scientists, for the first time, were able to see through the gas and dust of the Milky Way.

Lead author Professor Lister Staveley-Smith, from the University of Western Australia node of the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), said in a statement that the team had found 883 galaxies, a third of which had never been seen before:

The new galaxies are just 250 million light years from Earth, which in astronomical terms is very close. They have remained hidden from view because of the brightness and the concentration of stars within the Milky Way.

Below is an annotated animation showing the location of the galaxies discovered in the “Zone of Avoidance.” Until now this region of space has remained hidden from view because of the gas and dust of the Milky Way, which blocks light at optical wavelengths from reaching telescopes on Earth.

By using CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope to detect radio waves that can travel through our galaxy’s gas and dust, hundreds of new galaxies have been found in the region of space known to astronomers as the “Zone of Avoidance.”

This animation has been created using the actual positional data of the new galaxies, and randomly populating the region with galaxies of different sizes, types, and colors. Credit: ICRAR. Music by Holly Broadbent:

Astronomer Professor Renée Kraan-Korteweg, from the University of Cape Town, and part of the international team, said that astronomers have been trying to map the galaxy distribution hidden behind the Milky Way for decades:

The new research has identified several new structures that could help to explain the movement of the Milky Way, which includes three galaxy concentrations (named NW1, NW2, and NW3) and two new clusters (named CW1 and CW2).

Below is a visualisation showing the coordinates of the new “hidden galaxies.” At the center is Earth. Blue represents galaxies found in other surveys, and other colors show the locations of the new galaxies. Credit: ICRAR:

It is hoped that with further study the discoveries will help explain anomalies within the universal expansion of the cosmos, like the “Great Attractor.” The “Great Attractor” is pulling the Milky Way and hundreds of thousands of other galaxies toward it with huge gravitational force.

Professor Staveley-Smith who was part of the international team said scientists have been working on the mysterious “Great Attractor” since major deviations from universal expansion were first discovered in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Australian radio telescope, which was first made famous when it assisted with the moon landings, had been fitted with a 8.3 inches (21-cm) multibeam receiver, which made it possible to see the previously unexplored region of space.

An artist’s impression of the galaxies found in the ‘Zone of Avoidance’ behind the Milky Way. This scene has been created using the actual positional data of the new galaxies and randomly populating the region with galaxies of different sizes, types and colours. (Image: ICRAR)

An artist’s impression of the galaxies found in the ‘Zone of Avoidance’ behind the Milky Way. This scene has been created using the actual positional data of the new galaxies and randomly populating the region with galaxies of different sizes, types, and colors. (Image: ICRAR)

Dr. Bärbel Koribalski from CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science said the new innovative technologies on the Parkes Radio telescope had made it possible to survey large areas of the sky very quickly:

The study was published in The Astronomical Journal, and involved researchers from Australia, South Africa, the U.S., and the Netherlands.

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