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FOUND: Hundreds of Galaxies the Milky Way Had Been Hiding

Artist’s conception of newly discovered galaxies  (Image: ICRAR)

Astronomy, at its base, is simple. We’re stuck at more or less one fixed point in a giant universe, and to find out what’s out there, we stand here and measure the light that reaches us from incredible distances away.

There are limitations to this strategy, though—for instance, sometimes there’s something blocking that light. Like, oh, the Milky Way.

When astronomers have trained their tools in the direction of our own galaxy, the light and dust of all those relatively close-by stars blocked our view of what might be behind them. We knew that something was there—probably a whole bunch of other galaxies. But we didn’t know exactly how many or where they are.

Now, as Smithsonian.com reports, a group of astronomers have found a way to survey this “zone of avoidance.” They attached a new kind of receiver to a relatively old radio telescope, creating a tool that could look beyond the visible light of the Milky Way and scan the sky beyond 13 times faster than before. They found 833 galaxies there—240 of which had never been seen before.

Those galaxies might answer another mystery of astronomy. Our Milky Way and other nearby galaxies are hurtling through space at an incredible 14 million miles an hour towards…something. That’s faster than the expansion of the universe—faster than we should be moving—but it wasn’t clear what was pulling us along so fast. This concentration of other galaxies might be the cause—a bunch of nearby neighbors that just wants to get closer to us.

Bonus finds: Evidence of very early fish fermentation

Every day, we highlight one newly lost or found object, curiosity or wonder. Discover something unusual or amazing? Tell us about it! Send your finds to sarah.laskow@atlasobscura.com.