We Just Discovered 72 New Galaxies Hiding in Plain Sight

Wednesday, 29 November 2017 - 10:57AM
Astronomy
Wednesday, 29 November 2017 - 10:57AM
We Just Discovered 72 New Galaxies Hiding in Plain Sight
Image credit: NASA
One of the wonderful things about astronomy is the fact that there's always something new to be discovered.

Stargazers using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile have found 72 brand new galaxies that have never been identified before. The best part is that in order to do so, they simply examined a sector of space that had already been previously documented by the Hubble Telescope in 2004, proving that even when we think we know everything about a particular part of the night's sky, there's a good chance that there are a lot of secrets still waiting to be uncovered.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field, itself a small part of a region of space known as the Fornax constellation, has already given us a lot of fantastic information as we discovered a series of galaxies and stars in an area of the sky that, prior to 2004, had been considered completely empty.

Now, using a MUSE (Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer) instrument, scientists have found yet more exciting new galaxies, which were previously invisible because they've so far away that only ultra-violet light reaches the Earth.

According to Roland Bacon of the University of Lyon in France:

Opening quote
"MUSE can do something that Hubble can't—it splits up the light from every point in the image into its component colors to create a spectrum. This allows us to measure the distance, colors and other properties of all the galaxies we can see—including some that are invisible to Hubble itself."
Closing quote


It was through this splitting up of light that scientists were able to find galaxies that are completely invisible to the naked eye. MUSE also helped identify the age of the galaxies in relation to the Big Bang, suggesting that these celestial swirls are among the oldest recorded stars in the universe.




The nice thing about spectroscopy is that it gives us a lot more than just pretty pictures of all these galaxies—it's possible to also tell how fast these galaxies are traveling, and even what chemicals they're primarily made up of. It's likely that the discovery of these new galaxies will lead to far greater understanding of the early state of the universe immediately after the Big Bang.

The past few years have seen phenomenal progress in astronomy, as new technology has provided ways to get a far better look at distant objects. For example, the ability to detect and observe gravitational waves has enabled us to spy on black holes and supernovae from a great distance, helping us to learn about what happens when these anomalies collide.

With MUSE technology also allowing us to spot galaxies that appear outside of the visible spectrum, it looks like we're going to see even greater discoveries in the imminent future as scientists put these tools to work on looking further into the inky black darkness of space than anyone has ever glimpsed before.
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We Just Discovered 72 New Galaxies Hiding in Plain Sight