All this time that we've been marveling at our own galaxy, we've been blind to a much more impressive discovery that exists behind our cosmic back. Using CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope fitted with a new receiver, an international team of astronomers were able to find hundreds of galaxies, located only 250 million light-years away on the other side of the Milky Way.
According to the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), one-third of the 883 galaxies had never been seen before. The galaxies are located in a region of space known as the Zone of Avoidance and were previously shielded from telescopes because of the Milky Way's stars and dust.
The discovery of the galaxies will lead to more revelations in the future. Discovery News reports that ICRAR's Lister Staveley-Smith and the other scientists are studying the gravitational anomaly in space called the Great Attractor that is pulling on our galaxy—and hundreds of thousands of others—with the gravitational force of a million billion Suns. Finding these hidden galaxies may help solve that decades-old mystery.
"We know that in this region there are a few very large collections of galaxies we call clusters or superclusters," Staveley-Smith said, "and our whole Milky Way is moving towards them at more than 2 million kilometers per hour."
So how did scientist discover the galaxies? One of Staveley-Smith's collaborators on the study, Renée Kraan-Korteweg, of the University of Cape Town, explained that they used a radio telescope to pick up radio waves from the galaxies, which unlike optical wavelengths are able to permeate our galaxy's thick dust.
ICRAR created an animation (below) to illustrate where the galaxies were found in relation to our planet. Check it out, then head to ICRAR for more about the big discovery.