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Hidden ‘Dark’ Galaxy Found Orbiting Milky Way

Each new astronomical discovery points out just how mysterious our universe truly is. While conclusive proof of the existence of dark matter has yet to be found, several new astronomical developments this year continue to hint at the presence of so-called “dark” matter and the mysterious role it plays in the universe.

It might be our home, but there is still much about the Milky Way we don't understand.

It might be our home, but there is still much about the Milky Way we don’t understand.

To add to this mystery, an international team of astronomers led by researchers at Tohoku University in Japan have recently detected the presence of a mysterious dwarf galaxy orbiting our own Milky Way. If confirmed, this discovery could help shed light on the “missing satellite problem,” which argues that the universe should contain many more galaxies than are currently observable and suggests the widespread presence of dark matter throughout the cosmos.

This new dwarf galaxy has been named Virgo I, and measures roughly 248 light-years across, as opposed to the Milky Way which is estimated to be between 100,000 and 180,000 light-years in diameter. Virgo I lies around 280,000 light-years from our Sun in the direction of the Virgo constellation.

The new Virgo I galaxy is close to the Virgo Supercluster, a dense group of galaxies.

The new Virgo I galaxy is close to the Virgo Supercluster, a dense group of galaxies.

The discovery was made using the massive Subaru Telescope in Hawai’i. Lead researcher Masashi Chiba believes this discovery could shed light on some of the more enduring mysteries surrounding our galactic home and its creation:

This discovery implies hundreds of faint dwarf satellites waiting to be discovered in the halo of the Milky Way. How many satellites are indeed there and what properties they have, will give us an important clue of understanding how the Milky Way formed and how dark matter contributed to it.

If the researchers’ published data is confirmed, this new galaxy will be recorded as the faintest known galaxy in the observable universe, meaning this find could potentially confirm some long-held theories about the presence of dark matter or other so-called “dark” galaxies throughout the cosmos. The announcement of this new galaxy comes on the heels of the discovery of two other dark galaxies earlier this year, made possible by improvements in telescopic imaging technology.

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  • Cranford Ducain

    This “dark matter” I am hearing so much about; is it material which is very abundant but simply dark because it emits no light, or is it so very small it is undetectable with our instruments ? Could it be as fine as atomic particles or maybe the size of stars which have either never ignited or have already burned out ? Could it be large planet sized masses which are not bound to any lighted source?