Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hidden Galaxies May Swarm Near Our Own Milky Way

Tantalizing hints of tiny, hard-to-see galaxies on the outskirts of our cosmic neighborhood may help astronomers solve a longstanding mystery.

Researchers recently reported dozens of candidate objects that could represent missing dwarf galaxies predicted by theory, but generally hidden from sight. One particularly promising gas ball shows signs of being a lost satellite of the Milky Way, scientists say.

The theory of dark matter — i.e. that much of the universe is made of invisible stuff that only interacts with normal matter via gravity — predicts that thousands of miniature clumps of dark matter should be orbiting our Milky Way galaxy and its neighbor, Andromeda. Many of these clumps should have also attracted gas to form stars that shine in visible light.

Yet of the thousands of dwarf galaxies predicted by theory, only 60 have been detected.

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