Hidden behind our own galaxy are clues to a mystery of epic proportions.

Like a pedestrian who is walking one mile per hour slower than everyone around them; like a person who is standing in the exact middle of an escalator; like a driver who doesn't understand the left lane is for merging: Our galaxy is in the way.

Image from Mike Durkin/Flickr.


What exactly is the Milky Way hiding?

Don't get me wrong, the Milky Way is really cool and super pretty. It's home to at least 200 million stars and has fascinated people for centuries. It's nearly as old as the universe itself. As pretty as it is, all that dust, gas, and stars block our view of what's behind it.

Astronomers even have a term for this — the Zone of Avoidance.

The ultimate photobomb. Image from Andrew Xu/Wikimedia Commons.

Scientists have finally found a way to peer through the Zone of Avoidance — and what they saw on the other side is astounding.

An artist’s impression of the galaxies found in the "Zone of Avoidance" behind the Milky Way. Image by ICRAR, used with permission.

In order to peek through the zone of avoidance, scientists didn't use regular telescopes, they used radio telescopes, specifically the Parkes Observatory radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia.

Through the radio telescope, scientists were able to observe nearly 900 galaxies — 240 of which had never been seen before.

The Parkes telescope is over 200 feet across. Image from Stephen West/Wikimedia Commons.

Unlike the kind of telescopes that show you visible light waves, radio telescopes look at radio waves, which can penetrate through the gas and dust of our galaxy, giving scientists a kind of X-ray vision. 

An annotated artist's impression showing radio waves travelling from the new galaxies, then passing through the Milky Way and arriving at the Parkes radio telescope on Earth (not to scale). Image by ICRAR, used with permission.

Unfortunately, this means there isn't a big beautiful photo to share showing what the new galaxies in the Zone of Avoidance look like. All the pictures from the radio telescope kinda look like this: 

Ooooh! Ahhhh! GIF via ICRAR/Vimeo.

While perhaps not as cool as a full color, high-res, high-def photo of hundreds of new galaxies, these radio wave pictures could go a long way in helping scientists solve one of space's biggest mysteries. 

Because there is something hiding out there. Something big.​ No one knows what it is — but we know it's there. And with these new radio wave pictures, we're getting closer to figuring it out.

No, it's not "The Guardians of the Galaxy" sequel. 

Image from BagoGames/Flickr.

For now, it's called the Great Attractor.

Our galaxy, along with its neighbors, are all hurtling through space at 14 million miles per hour toward one particular point on the universal map — something astronomers call the Great Attractor. Whatever it is, it's huge and has the gravitational force of a million-billion suns.

And nobody knows what it is.

Though we've had evidence about it since the 1970s, the Great Attractor is hidden in that same Zone of Avoidance that was blocking our view of these recently discovered galaxies.

So are these recently discovered galaxies the Great Attractor? Or are they just one more piece of the puzzle?

Maybe? It's not clear at the moment.

“An average galaxy contains 100 billion stars," astronomer Professor Renée Kraan-Korteweg said in a press release. "So finding hundreds of new galaxies hidden behind the Milky Way points to a lot of mass we didn't know about until now.”

That said, scientists need to do follow-up studies to see if the new galaxies measure up or whether there's still something else out there.

The fact is, there's still a ton of stuff out there for us to find.

The universe is huge, and though we have some awesome tools and awesome people exploring it, there are still big mysterious things out there for us to discover. And that's pretty cool.

GIF from "Mystery Men."

Heroes

I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

Keep Reading Show less
Recommended
via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

Policing women's bodies — and by consequence their clothes — is nothing new to women across the globe. But this mother's "legging problem" is particularly ridiculous.

What someone wears, regardless of gender, is a personal choice. Sadly, many folks like Maryann White, mother of four sons, think women's attire — particularly women's leggings are a threat to men.

While sitting in mass at the University of Notre Dame, White was aghast by the spandex attire the young women in front of her were sporting.

Keep Reading Show less
More

Men are sharing examples of how they step up and step in when they see problematic behaviors in their peers, and people are here for it.

Twitter user "feminist next door" posed an inquiry to her followers, asking "good guys" to share times they saw misogyny or predatory behavior and did something about it. "What did you say," she asked. "What are your suggestions for the other other men in this situation?" She added a perfectly fitting hashtag: #NotCoolMan.

Not only did the good guys show up for the thread, but their stories show how men can interrupt situations when they see women being mistreated and help put a stop to it.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture