Hidden Galaxies Discovered Behind the Milky Way Galaxy May Shed Light on the Great Attractor

First Posted: Feb 10, 2016 08:13 PM EST

Hundreds of hidden nearby galaxies have been studied for the first time. Now, researchers are shedding light on the mysterious gravitational anomaly known as the Great Attractor.

Despite being just 250 million light years from Earth, the new galaxies have been hidden until now. This is largely because they were located behind our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

"The Milky Way is very beautiful of course and it's very interesting to study our own galaxy but it completely blocks out the view of the more distant galaxies behind it," said Lister Staveley-Smith, lead author of the new study, in a news release.

For years, researchers have tried to get to the bottom of the Great Attractor region, which appears to be drawing the Milky Way and hundreds of thousands of other galaxies toward it with a gravitational force equivalent to a million billion suns.

"We don't actually understand what's causing this gravitational acceleration on the Milky Way or where it's coming from," said Staveley-Smith. "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 kilometers per hour."

In this case, the discovery of the new galaxies could tell researchers a bit more about this attraction. This, in turn, may allow scientists to get a closer look at the physics of the universe.

The findings are published in the Astronomical Journal.

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