The Bizarre Mysteries of Space

The Great Attractor

Some 220 million light years away, something is pulling our galaxy towards itself. What is it? Scientists don’t really know–because they haven’t been able to actually see the object–or objects–causing the reaction. The Great Attractor is what the gravitational anomaly has been called, and most of our knowledge of it is indirect, including the theories about why we don’t know more.

The Great Attractor was first discovered in the 1970s, in the sector of the sky that scientists have named “the Zone of Avoidance.” For decades, scientists avoided looking there because–being in the same direction as the center of our galaxy–it’s full of gas and dust and other debris, making it harder for earlier-generation instruments to pick out anything in particular among the noise. But that discovery showed us that the Milky Way galaxy, along with several others in our local group, are definitely being pulled towards something. More recent astronomical technology has allowed us to look more closely into the Zone of Avoidance, enough to see a large supercluster of galaxies near The Great Attractor called the Norma Cluster. However, even as big as the Norma Cluster is, scientists have already ruled it out as a candidate for The Great Attractor. Fortunately, scientists are fairly certain that this particular anomaly isn’t going to destroy our galaxy any time soon, considering the much more immediate and closer-to-home threats that are out there.