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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Unimaginably huge

.... and so beautiful.

Catherine Hill Bay, NSW. Photo: Karl Lindsay


I did a piece a few years ago railing against the smallness of the imagination of most rabid right Christianists.  They focus on petty "rules" and "laws", when the universe is unimaginably vaster and more strange than anything they can imagine.

The recent discovery of nearly a thousand galaxies which were hidden from view by the stardust in our own galactic disk just emphasises this.  Our own galaxy has 200 to 400 BILLION stars.  And we are part of a pretty normal galaxy.  And now another thousand galaxies have been discovered.

You would think it was pretty hard to hide a galaxy containing tens of billions of stars – but nearly a thousand of them?
Hundreds of new galaxies have been identified within 250 million light years of Earth, hidden behind the glow of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. The discovery is helping us understand the structure of our nearby universe and could challenge some of the assumptions of modern cosmology.

"The region we looked at is a very hard region to study; it's know as the 'Zone of Avoidance', another name for the plane of our own galaxy," Professor Lister Staveley-Smith at the University of Western Australia, told Fairfax Media

The centre of our galaxy is teeming with dust clouds and billions of stars. Very little optical light is able to penetrate the dense dust and gas. Even when it does, the foreground stars are so densely packed together that they blind our telescopes to the faint glow from more distant objects. Space behind the Milky Way is invisible to us on Earth.
Using novel techniques in radio astronomy, Australian scientist Professor Staveley-Smith and his team were able to detect 883 new galaxies, a third of which have never been seen before and the rest of which were barely smudges.


Read more here.

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