Ninety-six hidden open star clusters were found in the disk of our Milky Way galaxy, astronomers said. The stars are not visible in the visible-light spectrum because they are masked by clouds of dust but the ESO's VISTRA infrared survey telescope is able to see through the massive amounts of dust.
Astronomers said that the majority of stars that are at least 50 percent larger than our sun sit within open clusters and not many of them have been detected due to massive amounts of dust and that a better read on them will facilitate insight into our galaxy.
Many of these types of clusters form in extremely dusty regions that diffuse and absorb most of the light young stars emit, researchers said.
"We found that most of the clusters are very small and only have about 10 to 20 stars. Compared to typical open clusters, these are very faint and compact objects - the dust in front of these clusters makes them appear 10,000 to 100 million times fainter in visible light. It's no wonder they were hidden," said Radostin Kurtev, a team member, in Thursday's image advisory from the ESO.
"We've just started to use more sophisticated automatic software to search for less concentrated and older clusters," lead author of the study Jura Borissova told MSNBC. "I am confident that many more are coming soon," she added.
The findings will be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.