August 13, 2022

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The 3D map showed a million new galaxies.  The Milky Way's neighbors covered them the whole time

The 3D map showed a million new galaxies. The Milky Way’s neighbors covered them the whole time

The Magellanic Clouds, or satellite galaxies of the Milky Way, have so far been a serious obstacle for sky watchers who could not see the objects hidden behind these galaxies.

However, there was a significant progress as astronomers were able to make a 3D map, thanks to which they were able to identify about a million previously unknown galaxies. The obstacle so far has been the high brightness of our galaxy’s moons, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. In addition, they occupy a large area of ​​the night sky, which means that scientists simply bypassed them during their research.

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The Magellanic Clouds are lovely galactic companions, but unfortunately they block some of our view of things outside. Our work helps overcome this, and the whole process helps fill in the gaps in our map of the universe.Jessica Craig, Keele University

Craig led the case team. She and her colleagues observed the Magellanic Clouds with such high accuracy that it was possible to look into the gaps between the stars that make up these galaxies. Assisted VISTA (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) at the Chilean Paranal Observatory. Subsequently, the GASKAP (Australian Hungarian Survey Pathfinder Array Survey) radio telescope was used, thanks to which it was possible to peek into the depths of dust that fills the space between the Earth and distant galaxies.

The 3D galaxy map was created thanks to a number of tools and artificial intelligence

Unfortunately, with the naked eye, it is impossible to distinguish distant galaxies from nearby objects. But while stars can change their positions, distant galaxies stay in the same place. In this case, the data from the Gaia observatory proved conclusive, thanks to which the astronomers classified each light source.

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It is worth bearing in mind that the universe is expanding and distant galaxies are moving away from Earth. Therefore, the wavelength of light extends from these objects. The longer wavelengths of visible light are red, known as redshift. The farther away an object is, the faster it moves and the redder its light becomes.

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This is why distant galaxies are redder than stars thrown out of the catalog. The final stage of the mission was carried out by machine learning and artificial intelligence, thanks to which a 3D map was created covering about one million galaxies.