The Magellanic Clouds are two galaxies, one of which can be seen from the southern hemisphere. The Magellanic Clouds were once thought to be a single, nearby galaxy with an unknown type of irregularity. Now astronomers have figured out that the two clouds are in fact separated into two distinct regions and can only now begin studying them as separate entities. The galaxy’s first region is a bar-shaped object that wraps around the second, which is itself small and dwarf.
Scientists think that the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds might have once made up a single spiral galaxy, yet there’s no way to be sure. Even though they’re visible from Earth’s Southern hemisphere, it would take so long for the light to reach us we’d never know!
The clouds from the cosmic structure are so close to our own Milky Way Galaxy that they actually feed it gas and dust. It’s possible these two could eventually collide, or even merge together in time!
Facts About The Magellanic Clouds
- The Large Magellanic Cloud is 163,000 light-years from Earth. It also has a companion that’s only 200,000 light-years away.
- For years astronomers thought that the Magellanic Clouds orbited around our Milky Way galaxy. The measurements of their speed may prove them to be moving too fast for this theory.
- The Magellanic Clouds are gas-rich, meaning they have more of their mass in the form of gases. They also have less portion of their mass bound up as metals.
- The Magellanic Clouds have both had their shapes distorted by the Milky Way’s gravitational pull. As these galaxies pass near our galaxy, they cause it to misshape as well.
- The Small Magellanic Cloud might be a former single galaxy that got split into two remnants thanks to gravitational interactions with the LMC.
- The Large Magellanic Cloud is a vast, gas and dust-filled area that seems to be bustling with activity. There are many stars being born but also some dying too. One of the most interesting parts about this region, in particular, is its proximity to an exploding star called 1987a which went off not long ago!
Large Magellanic Cloud
The LMC, also known as the Large Magellanic Cloud is considered to be one of the Milky Way’s dwarf satellite galaxies. At 163,000 light-years away it’s one galaxy that doesn’t take much rocket science to reach!
The LMC is the only galaxy in our entire solar system that appears near Earth’s atmosphere. And when viewed from Southern Hemisphere, it might look like a faint cloud across skies of South America and Africa on dark nights with no moonlight to obstruct your view!
The LMC is just one of the many galaxies that make up the Local Group. These carry the name because they’re those galaxies that are closest to our Milky Way galaxy and, as a result, have been studied extensively for their similarities with ours.
In the Local Group, Andromeda is by far and away from the most well-known galaxy. It’s 2.5 million light-years from Earth but it will eventually collide with our own Milky Way once it moves closer to us in space-time.
Large Magellanic Cloud Profile
|Type:||Disrupted Barred Spiral|
|Mass:||10 billion solar masses|
|Constellation:||Dorado & Mensa|
|Discovery Date:||First described in 964 A.D.|
|Approximate Number of Stars:||30 billion|
Small Magellanic Cloud
The SMC is only 200,000 light-years away from earth and we’re its closest neighbor!
It is a small but very important galaxy. The Milky Way’s twin, so to speak. It and the Large Magellanic Cloud make up what we call “The Local Group.”
Think of the SMC as a map that stretches across space. It goes on for over 7,000 light-years!
Seen from Earth, the SMC takes up about as much space in our sky as 9 to 10 moons.
The SMC is often called the small and insignificant galaxy, but it’s home to a few hundred million stars.
The Magellanic Clouds are two smaller galaxies that orbit our Milky Way Galaxy. They were both named after Ferdinand Magellan, a famous explorer who was the first person to circumnavigate Earth and map its surface in detail.
Magellan’s voyage around the world was a groundbreaking event in history because it allowed him and his crew to bring back so much information about other cultures and peoples that had never been seen before.
While Magellan died during the voyage, his crew offered documentation that showed he had identified the Magellanic Clouds.
Small Magellanic Cloud Profile
|Mass:||6.5 billion solar masses|
|Constellation:||Tucana & Hydrus|
|Discovery Date:||The late 1400s|
|Approximate Number of Stars:||3 billion|
Magellanic Cloud Structure
The LMC and SMC have barely been explored before the invention of sophisticated telescopes.
The Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) have given us a more in-depth view of these two galaxy neighbors.
After decades of exploration, NASA has finally given us a clearer look into these neighboring galaxies.
The team at WISE has captured a stunning image of the Small Magellanic Cloud, which is around 200,000 light-years away.
The images show the irregular shape of SMC and viewing with different infrared light displays the cyan, blue colors that represent stars as well as red and green which are made up of warm dust.
Researchers have used over 3,900 frames to create an image of hydrogen atoms emitting light in a complex.
The image shows a region of space that is surrounded by ionized gas. There are many young stars in this area, which has caused the winds to shape themselves and emit glowing hydrogen called H II (ionized hydrogen).