Researchers have discovered a bunch of galaxies described as being ‘behind’ the Milky Way, at least from our own perspective in the universe, and they may be responsible for the Great Attractor, a gravitational anomaly. This collective of galaxies, of which there are hundreds, are located about 250 light years away from Earth, and many of them have been studied by researchers for the first time ever. According to the newly published study, 883 galaxies have been found.
These hidden galaxies were discovered using the CSIRO Parkes radio telescope and a receiver described as being “innovative.” With it, the researchers were able to peer through the Milky Way and its various obstacles to the world that lies behind it…in this case, a bunch of galaxies that have long gone unstudied. This region has a gravitational force akin to that of one million billion Suns.
Because of that gravitational force, researchers believe the collective could be responsible for the so-called Great Attractor, a force that has been slowly pulling the Milky Way and more in toward it. There are two new clusters called CW1 and CW2, as well as three new galaxy concentrations, that could be partly responsible for this attraction.
Of the hidden galaxies, about 30-percent of them have been revealed to researchers for the first time ever. Thick layers of dust, not to mention stars, have long been in the way. Thanks to the new receiver, though, researchers not only were able to find the galaxies, but also to map the sky much faster than common, doing so at a rate 13 times faster.
When speaking of the Great Attractor, the study’s lead author Professor Lister Staveley-Smith 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 towards them at more than two million kilometres per hour.
Astronomers, of course, will continue to study the region, and may find the answers to mysteries that have long vexed researchers. The full study was published in the Astronomical Journal and is available for reading here.