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."

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Officer Stagg meeting Sherry Smith on WISH-TV.

Indianapolis Police Officer Jeff Stagg selflessly maintained the roadside memorial of Shelby Smith, who had been killed by a drunk driver. He picked up trash and placed little plastic flowers, figurines and rocks around it to keep it presentable. Though Shelby died nearly 22 years ago, Officer Stagg didn't want her to be forgotten. And now, his act of kindness won't be forgotten either.

Passerby Kaleb Hall (@kalebhall00 on TikTok) noticed the officer cleaning up the site and asked him what he was doing here. Kaleb had already thought the behavior a little uncharacteristic, "a cop cleaning up trash in the hood," so he went over to inquire.

After explaining that Shelby's memorial was in his patrol area and that he guessed her family had moved away, Officer Stagg told Kaleb, "no one's keeping it up anymore, so I just wanna make sure it stays kept up."

Stagg had noticed the memorial had become surrounded by overgrown grass, weeds and trash. After driving past it every day, Officer Stagg thought enough was enough.


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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."