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Studying Galaxies Reveals The Mysterious Great Attractor

Scientists have used the CSIRO’s Parkes 64-meter-long radio telescope (sited in Australia). By studying images from the immense instrument, astronomers have discovered hundreds of galaxies that were previously hidden from view. At the same time, they have found out more about a gravitational anomaly called “the Great Attractor.”

The reason may galaxies have been hidden from view is because out own galaxy – the Milky Way – got in the way. The newly discovered galaxies are in what is known as the Zone of Avoidance (due to the region being obstructed by the stars and planets).

Viewing the hidden galaxies was made possible by the Parkes telescope being equipped with a new 21-centimeter multibeam receiver. This allows regions of space to be examined more quickly, and the speed of mapping also allows for greater penetration into stellar dust.

One of the lead scientists, Renée Kraan-Korteweg told the website Science Explorer:

“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.”

As well as finding a whopping 883 galaxies, some details were obtained about the Great Attractor region. The Great Attractor is a gravity anomaly in intergalactic space located close to the Hydra-Centaurus Supercluster at the centre of the Laniakea Supercluster.

This area of space is seemingly drawing in the Milky Way, with a gravitational force equivalent to a million billion suns. The rate of movement has now been assessed as two million kilometres per hour.

The Great Attractor puzzles scientists because it works against theories that the universe is continually expanding. Several galaxy concentrations seem to be involved with the phenomenon – NW1, NW2 and NW3, which were previously thought to be involved, and CW1 and CW2, which are newly discovered.

More data needs to be reviewed to see if further insights can be gained.

Further insights are published in the Astronomical Journal. Here the paper is titled “The Parkes HI Zone of Avoidance Survey.”

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.