UH clocks Milky Way's 1.4M mph voyage
HILO » The Milky Way galaxy, which includes Earth and the sun, is being pulled toward an enormous mass of galaxies a half-billion light-years away, University of Hawaii astronomers have confirmed with X-ray studies.
The result is the entire Milky Way is moving through space at 1.4 million mph.
Astronomers have known for decades that the Milky Way was being pulled by something really big called "the Great Attractor."
But they could not see this hypothetical attractor because they would have to look through the Milky Way to do so. Visible light just could not get through the dusty, cluttered galaxy.
Now UH astronomers Dale Kocevski, Harald Eberling, and R. Brent Tully, along with UH alumnus Chris Mullis, have seen through the galaxy looking at X-rays that pass through space dust the way they pass through human flesh. Kocevski announced their work Tuesday at the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C.
What they found was a "significant concentration of galaxies" pulling the Milky Way, 500 million light-years from Earth, four times the distance of the Great Attractor.
The discovery of two attractors instead of one was good news for understanding the density of the universe. One attractor would have implied too much matter in the universe, the UH Institute for Astronomy said. Two widely spaced attractors imply a better distribution of matter, they said.