Great Attractor Revealed? Galaxies Found Lurking Behind the Milky Way

Milky Way by Matt Dieterich

Hundreds of galaxies hidden from sight by our own Milky Way galaxy have been studied for the first time. Though only 250 million light years away—which isn’t that far for galaxies—they have been obscured by the gas and dust of the Milky Way. These galaxies may be a tantalizing clue to the nature of The Great Attractor. On February 9th, an international team of scientists published a paper detailing the results of their study of these galaxies using the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s (CSIRO) Parkes radio telescope, a 64 meter telescope in Australia. The ‘scope is equipped with an innovative new multi-beam receiver, which made it possible to peer through the Milky Way into the galaxies behind it.The area around the Milky Way that is obscured to us is called the Zone of Avoidance (ZOA). This study focused on the southern portion of the ZOA, since the telescope is in Australia. (The northern portion of the ZOA is currently being studied by the Arecibo radio telescope, also equipped with the new multi-beam receiver.) The significance of their work is not that they found hundreds of new galaxies. There was no reason to suspect that galactic distribution would be any different in the ZOA than anywhere else. What’s significant is what it will tell us about The Great Attractor.The Great Attractor is a feature of the large-scale structure of the Universe. It is drawing our Milky Way galaxy, and hundreds of thousands of other galaxies, towards it with the gravitational force of a million billion suns. The Great Attractor is an anomaly, because it deviates from our understanding of the universal expansion of the universe. “We don’t actually understand what’s causing this gravitational acceleration on the Milky Way or where it’s coming from,” said —> Read More

Sources of Gravitational Waves: The Most Violent Events in the Universe

One of the most promising gravitational wave sources: Bodies orbiting each other under their own gravity

Soon, very soon, Thursday, February 11, at 10:30 Eastern time, we are likely to learn at any one of several press conferences – at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in Hannover, Germany, near Pisa in Italy and elswhere – that gravitational waves have been measured directly, for the first time. This would mean the first direct detection of minute distortions of spacetime, travelling at the speed of light, first postulated by Albert Einstein almost exactly 100 years ago.Time to brush up on your gravitational wave basics: In Gravitational waves and how they distort space, we had a look at what gravitational waves do. In Gravitational wave detectors: How they work we saw how you can measure gravitational waves. Third and final step: What are typical gravitational wave sources? How are these waves produced?

Objects in orbit

The simplest situation that produces gravitational waves in the cosmos is almost ubiquitous: two or more objects orbiting around each other under their own gravity. The waves they generate are reminiscent to a very slow mixer in the middle of a pool of water: One of the most promising gravitational wave sources: Objects in orbit around each other. By Sascha Husa, Universitat de les Illes Balears This is not something you would see, of course. The wave that is pictured here represents the strength of the minute changes in distance that would be caused by the gravitational wave, just as we’ve seen in Gravitational waves and how they distort space. The animation is courtesy of Sascha Husa of the Universitat de les Illes Balears.

Indirect evidence

Gravitational waves emitted by orbiting objects carry away energy. Elementary physics tells you that if you remove energy from an orbiting system, the distance between the orbiting —> Read More

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