Unknown extragalactic structure was found in the Zone of Avoidance

One of the most difficult parts of the Universe to observe is the so-called “Zone of Avoidance”. This is a relatively unexplored region of the sky, closed by our Milky Way galaxy. But during a new study, a group of astronomers managed to look right through the zone and discover a once-hidden extragalactic structure. The study is described in detail in an article in the journal Astronomy&Astrophysics, Vice reports.

Illustration of a supercluster of galaxies located beyond the Milky Way Zone of Avoidance. Picture: Quanta magazine

The infamous zone covers 10% to 20% of the sky due to the stars and dust surrounding the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. To see what is on the other side of the bulge is a very difficult task. Previously, successful attempts have been made to look through this zone, but in comparison with other regions of space, little attention is still paid to it.

But now the discovery by astronomers of an “extragalactic structure”, which is believed to be a significant cluster of galaxies, may help clarify the situation.

Peek behind the Galactic curtain

To look beyond the galactic curtain, a team of astronomers led by Daniela Galdeano from the National University of San Juan in Argentina, used the European Southern Observatory to study infrared light passing by the obstructive bulge of the Milky Way. 

Milky Way creates a Zone of Avoidance for local observers

After the discovery of an extragalactic structure in the form of a cluster, astronomers used the Gemini South telescope in the Chilean Andes to measure the redshifts of five galaxies, which helped determine their distances and speeds. According to the team’s estimates, there may be about 58 galaxies in the cluster, but they will need additional observations to be sure.

Mysteries of the Zone of Avoidance

The discovery of this cluster opens up a fascinating view beyond the Milky Way, and scientists will have to keep looking through this curtain to understand our place in space. For example, in addition to hidden galaxy clusters, the Zone of Avoidance contains the so-called Large Attractor – an unknown gravitational anomaly that pulls galaxies and clusters towards itself. The nature of this huge attractor is a mystery that can only be solved with the help of additional observations and research.

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